India, Pak, Belgium to pay in tri-nation tourney in Chennai

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Chennai, Jan 2 (UNI) The Indian team's preparation for the all important Olympic hockey qualifers is all set to gain momentum, with the country playing a three-nation tourney with Pakistan and Belgium, here from January 22 to 30.

Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) Secretary K Jyothikumaran said here today that the tournament was approved by the FIH and the fixtures would be released in the next couple of days.

Pakistan had confirmed their participation in the tournament, which was being organised as part of India's preparations for the Olympic qualifiers to be held at Santiago (Chile) from March 1 to 9.

He said each team would play against each other twice in the preliminary rounds and the top two teams would clash in the finals.

The Olympic qualifiers would be a six-nation event and the winner would gain a berth in the Beijing Olympics. The other teams were Great Britain, Mexico, Austria, Bangladesh, besides hosts Chile.

A 24-member squad would be picked from the probables, who attended the camp in Bangalore. The team would visit Western Australia for a couple of practice matches, before leaving for Chile.

Pakistan earned their qualification through extra quota on being the bronze medallist at the 2006 Doha Asian Games. India had failed to qualify for the semifinals and finished fifth at the Asian Games.

Belgium received a direct berth in the Beijing Olympics as bronze medallists in the Euro Hockey Nations Championships.

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