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Spain Tour Will Be Good Exposure Ahead Of Asian Games, Says Women’s Hockey Skipper Savita Punia

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The upcoming tour of Spain will not only help “pinpoint the areas that demand immediate attention” but will also give the junior players a chance to prove themselves and make it to the Asian Games squad, feels Indian women’s hockey team skipper Savita.

India will have an opportunity to put their skills and team combinations to the test when they travel to Spain to compete in the 100th Anniversary Spanish Hockey Federation-International Tournament, scheduled to take place from July 25 to 30.

“It will be a crucial tournament for us as it will enable us to pinpoint the areas that demand immediate attention and require collective effort to improve as a team,” Savita was quoted as saying in a Hockey India press release.

The four-nation tournament will witness India play against South Africa, England and hosts Spain.

“We will be playing against some of the top-notch teams in the tournament, so, in a way it will be a litmus test for us ahead of the Asian Games.”

The Asian Games, to be held in Hangzhou in September-October, will be crucial  as a gold-medal finish will earn the team a direct qualification for the next year’s Paris  Olympics.

The junior team displayed superb skills as it defeated four-time champions Korea 2-1 in the summit clash to clinch India’s maiden women’s junior Asia Cup title last week.

The likes of juniors Sunelita Toppo have been included in the 33-member core probables group for the Asian Games, which is currently sweating it out at the senior women’s national coaching camp at SAI the camp in Bengaluru till July 11.

“Also, now every player will have to prove her mettle in every training session and match to make it to the squad for the Asian Games. There are numerous talented players in the junior squad, which recently won the Asia Cup, and they will be eyeing to make it to the senior team.”

“Hence, no player can take her place in the team for granted. Everyone has a chance to make or break into the Asian Games team. I believe this kind of healthy competition for a spot in the team will only help the side become more daunting.”

Talking about the ongoing national camp Savita said the team is focussing on “refining the structure and tactics of the team”. We are currently focusing on giving our best in every session at the national camp, which is very crucial for us as it gives us an opportunity to refine the structure and tactics of the team ahead of the Asian Games.

“We are aware of what our coach expects from us as a team and that definitely makes our task easier.”

Further reflecting on the Indian team’s performance in their recent tour of Australia, where they played five matches against the hosts, Savita said.

“In Australia, our performance in the first game wasn’t up to par, but it was understandable given that we were playing international hockey after the gap of four months. Consequently, the team faced some difficulties in establishing their synergy.”

“Nevertheless, we managed to hold our ground throughout the tour. This resilience is becoming increasingly characteristic of our team.”

“We excel in playing collectively and fighting together, making it a formidable challenge for any opponent to defeat us and that will be our biggest strength in the Asian Games,” she added.

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