USA ready for Indian challenge at FIH Olympic qualifiers

Head coach Schopman says the team is well prepared and is expecting close matches on November 1-2.

The Indian women’s hockey team might be on a high after a string of positive performances in recent weeks, but United States head coach Janneke Schopman believes her side are ready for the challenge faced in their FIH Olympic Hockey Qualifiers.

India will take on USA in the two-match tie on November 1-2 with the winner qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

In Bhubaneshwar for the two-legged qualifier tie against the hosts, Schopman said that her team was well prepared for the challenges and that they have been monitoring the steady rise of the Indian women’s team.

“We are well prepared for the Indian team. They have progressed well over the past year and so have we. We have been following India matches lately. We are expecting close matches and our team is very excited to be here,” Schopman said addressing the media on the team’s arrival.

The captain of the USA hockey team Kathleen Sharkey addresses the media upon their arrival in Bhubaneswar. Image courtesy: Hockey India
The captain of the USA hockey team Kathleen Sharkey addresses the media upon their arrival in Bhubaneswar. Image courtesy: Hockey IndiaThe captain of the USA hockey team Kathleen Sharkey addresses the media upon their arrival in Bhubaneswar. Image courtesy: Hockey India

The happy place

Meanwhile their skipper Kathleen Sharkey said that the team was excited to be in Bhubaneshwar, a city that has slowly become the go-to destination for top-quality hockey over the past few years.

“It is exciting to be in India. None of us have been here before but we know India has a great history in hockey and people here are very passionate about the sport, with a lot of fans coming to watch the matches live.

“We saw the spectacular Men's World Cup hosted here in Bhubaneswar. We are looking forward to playing here and taking home the experience of playing in one of the world's most famous cities for hockey," said the 29-year-old who has represented the US national team 174 times so far.

Apart from the men’s World Cup in 2018, Bhubaneshwar has played host to the men’s Champions Trophy (2014), the Men's FIH Hockey World League Final (2017) and the FIH Men’s Hockey Series Final (2019) in the past five years. The Olympic qualifier will be another feather in the cap for Kalinga Stadium, which has started to become a preferred location of world-class hockey.

Wary of the threat

The Americans last played the Indian side at the 2018 FIH Women’s World Cup in London. While that game ended in a 1-1 draw, Sharkey said that it helped them understand the quality they will be up against in the Olympic qualifier on November 1-2.

“Our goal is obviously to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. We want to put forth our best in those two games and make sure we play to our potential against India,” said the American skipper.

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