Indian junior men’s hockey team captain Uttam Singh feels that the upcoming Junior Asia Cup 2023 in Salalah, Oman, is a big opportunity for his side to prove its mettle and implement everything that they have worked on during training sessions.
The highly anticipated Junior Asia Cup, which is set to start on May 23 and will run till June 1, 2023, will not only serve as a brilliant platform for the young players in Asia to display their skills, but it will also be crucial as the top three finishers in the tournament will qualify for the FIH Junior Hockey Men’s World Cup 2023, which is set to be played in Malaysia in December this year.
The Indian team, which will be captained by Uttam and vice captained by Boby Singh Dhami, will enter the tournament as defending champions and are also the most successful team in the title event alongside Pakistan as both sides have won the Men’s Junior Asia Cup three times each.
Notably, the Men’s Junior Asia Cup 2023 will see 10 participating teams that have been split into two pools. India has been grouped in pool A of the tournament along with nemesis Pakistan, Japan, Thailand and Chinese Taipei, while pool B consists of hosts Oman, Korea, Malaysia, Bangladesh and Uzbekistan.
“Junior Asia Cup is a big opportunity for us to prove our mettle and implement everything that we have worked on during training sessions. Given the good international exposure that we have gained in the last couple of years and the recent practice sessions that we had in SAI Centre, Bengaluru, where we also played against the Senior Team to hone our skills, we can say that we are well prepared to defend the title,” said India captain Uttam, ahead of the start of the tournament.
On the other hand, vice-captain Dhami said that the side is not only excited to play against the best young teams in Asia, but it’s also pumped up after winning the Sultan of Johor Cup last year.
“We are looking forward to testing our skills against some of the top teams in Asia and with the World Cup spots up for grabs, we are aiming to give our all on the field. Also, the victory at the Sultan of Johor Cup last year has proven to be a big confidence booster for us and the energy in the team since then has been soaring. I believe that we are capable of beating any team in a tournament and make our nation proud by clinching the gold medal,” he said.
As per the tournament format, each team in the pool stage will play the other four teams in their pool once and the top two teams in both pools will qualify for the semi-finals. The two finalists and the bronze medallist, who will be decided by a match between the losing semi-finalists, will qualify for the FIH Junior Hockey World Cup 2023.
However, if Malaysia, who has already qualified for the prestigious quadrennial event by the virtue of being the hosts, enter the semi-finals of the Men’s Junior Asia Cup 2023, then all the other three teams making it to the last-four of the tournament will gain entry into the marquee event in December.
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India will open their Men’s Junior Asia Cup 2023 campaign against Chinese Taipei on May 24 while they will take on Japan on 25th. The Uttam Singh-led team will then lock horns with Pakistan on May 27 before playing against Thailand in their last pool game on May 28.