Hockey: India to face Mexico in Olympic qualifiers

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Chennai, Jan 17: India will begin her quest for a berth in this year's Beijing Olympics with a match against Mexico in the Olympic qualifers to be held at San Tiago in Chile from March one to nine.

The fixtures for the all important tournament was released by Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) Secretary K Jyothikumaran here today.Thanks to the Asia Cup win, India is placed in an easier pool, compared to the other Olympic qualifiers at Japan and New Zealand. India were grouped alongside strong contenders Great Britain, Bangladesh, Chile and Austria.

''Though every match is important, the main threat will be Great Britain. That match will be very crucial, because there is chance of meeting Great Britain in the final also to decide the qualifier for Beijing'', Mr Jyothikumaran told UNI.

''Considering the importance of the tournament and an Olympic berth in sight, we cannot underestimate any team. We will not take any team lightly. We are prepared to face the challenge'', he added.

Mr Jyothikumaran said in recent past, except in Sydney 2000, India had made it to the Olympics through the qualifiers.

However, in Sydney India earned a direct entry by winning the Gold in Bangkok Asian Games in 1999.

Following is the schedule: March 1: India vs Mexico; Great Britain vs Bangladesh; Chile vs Austria.

March 2: India vs Bangladesh; Great Britain vs Austria; Mexico vs Chile.

March 3 : Rest Day. March 4: Mexico vs Great Britain; Austria vs Bangladesh; Chile vs India.

March 5 : Rest Day.

March 6: Austria vs Mexico; Great Britain v India; Bangladesh vs Chile.

March 7 : Rest day.

March 8: India vs Austria; Bangladesh vs Mexico, Chile vs Great Britain March 9: Play off matches followed by final.

UNI

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