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Hockey Pro League: Indian men’s, women’s teams hope to make most of European leg

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Antwerp (Belgium), May 21 (PTI) Indian men’s hockey team will hope to iron out the flaws ahead of the Paris Olympics, while the women’s team under new skipper Salima Tete will look to overcome the disappointment of not qualifying for the Summer Games, when the gruelling European leg of the FIH Pro League commences here with matches against Argentina on Wednesday.

The men’s team under drag-flicker Harmanpreet Singh is coming into the tournament following a 0-5 Test series whitewash at the hands of Australia and would look to make the most of the opportunity in Europe to get back to winning ways ahead of the Paris Games.

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“Undoubtedly, we are focused on the Olympics but we also need to give our best to finish as champions (in Pro League) and secure direct qualification for the 2026 Hockey World Cup as well,” said Harmanpreet, whose team is currently placed third with 15 points from eight Pro League games.

Netherlands are leading the charts with 26 points (12 matches), while Australia are on 20 points (8 matches).

“To achieve both these targets (doing well ahead of Olympics and secure direct qualification for 2026 World Cup), we will strive to give our all on the pitch and win all our matches,” the skipper added.

Besides Argentina, the Indian men’s team will also test their Olympic preparations against Belgium, Germany and Great Britain.

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The Indian women, currently placed sixth on the Pro League table, have a chance to climb up the table when they take on world No.7 Argentina on Wednesday.

The world No.6 side has earned eight points from an equal number of games in the Pro League home leg, registering victories against the United States and Australia.

Newly-appointed captain Salima said the friendlies against South Africa in India earlier this month had helped her team prepare for the European leg of the Pro League.

“We played practice matches against South Africa (in India) to prepare for these Hockey Pro League matches. The point difference between us and second-placed China is just seven points,” said Tete in a Hockey India release.

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“We (will) aim to close this gap in the remaining matches against Argentina, Belgium, Germany, and Great Britain in a bid to finish as high as we can,” she added.

China are placed second on the table with 15 points from eight games, while leaders Netherlands are on 36 points with an all-win record in 12 games.

Following the matches against Argentina, the women’s team will play Belgium on May 23, while the men’s side will take on the hosts a day later.

The women’s and men’s teams will face Belgium again on May 25.

India women and men will end their first half of the European tour with matches against Argentina on May 26, before moving on to the final leg in London where they play Germany on June 1 and 8 and take on hosts Great Britain on June 2 and 9.

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