Indian men will take on New Zealand in their opening hockey match at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics while the women’s team will play Rio Games silver medallist the Netherlands on July 25 as the draw for the quadrennial extravaganza was announced in Tokyo on Tuesday.
Indian men’s skipper Manpreet Singh said: “A good start will always give the right confidence and momentum to carry on in the tournament.
“It will be important for us to begin with a win. New Zealand have always posed stiff competition for us and I believe it can be a close game.
“It is important to keep our nerves in check as opening matches can be a bit overwhelming, especially at a major event like the Olympics.”
Indian men, clubbed with defending champion Argentina, world No. 1 Australia, Spain, New Zealand and host Japan in Pool A, will play Australia on July 26 and then Spain on July 28.
After a day’s break on July 29, the next opponent will be Argentina on July 30 and Japan on July 31.
The men’s quarterfinals have been slated for August 2 while the semifinals will be held on Aug. 4. The gold and bronze medal matches will be played on Aug. 6.
“Every game will be crucial and we cannot let our guard down against any team, even if they are ranked below us. Each match will need to be played like it is the final,” Manpreet said.
The Indian women’s team skipper Rani Rampal said: “Draw does not matter because in the Olympics every team is equal and every team will come with an aim to win. We need to focus on ourselves and what we can do better on a given day. We are preparing well to ensure we tick all the boxes in each of our matches.”
Indian women are in Pool A along with the Netherlands, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland and South Africa. They will take on Germany on July 27, followed by a match against defending champion Great Britain on July 29.
They will then play Ireland on July 31 and South Africa in their last pool match on Aug. 1.
The quarterfinals are slated for Aug. 3 while the semifinals will be on Aug. 5. The gold and bronze medal matches will be played on Aug. 7.