Test series with Belgium right preparation for qualifiers:IHF

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Chennai, Jan 23 (UNI) India's preparations for the Olympic qualifiers to be held at San Tiago in Chile in March, is all set to gain momentum with a five-match hockey test series against Belgium here from January 25.

The Test series against a strong Belgium, who have already qualified for the Beijing Olympics by defeating World Cup champions Germany in the European Qualifiers, will be the right kind of match exposure for the team's preparation for the March one to nine event in Chile.

''The Belgium team is already on a high after their defeat over Germany that earned them a direct berth for this year's Beijing Olympics. So the five-test matches will be a tough series for India'', Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) Secretary K Jyothikumaran told UNI.

''For the first time, the IHF is giving this kind of exposure as part of preparations for the Olympic Qualifiers, where it will be a two-horse race between India and Great Britain for just one slot'', he added.

After the Test series, the Indian team would travel to Perth for training cum competition. Apart from playing some matches with the local teams, India would also play some practice matches with China, which would also be coming to Perth at the same time for training.

''The training-cum-competition programme at Perth is aimed at fine tuning the team's preparations for Olympic qualifiers'', Mr Jyothikumaran said and added that the newly appointed Hockey Technical expert Ric Charlesworth would also join the team at Perth.

Considering that the junior team was doing exceptionally well in the ongoing eight-nation tournament at Kuala Lumpur, the IHF did not rule out some of the players, including penalty corner specialist Diwakar Ram, finding a place in the squad for the Chile event.

''The performance of the juniors is being closely watched and some players like Diwakar Ram are doing exceptionally well there.

Some of the juniors might find a place in the team for Olympic qualifiers'', he added.

UNI GV VV AB HT1824

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