India might have failed to win any medal in the Rio Olympics, but they did play some impressive hockey, losing to Belgium in the quarterfinals. After a good display in the Rio Games, India will hope for a brilliant performance in the upcoming Men's Asian Champions Trophy, which is scheduled to start on Thursday.
Besides India, there are five other teams in the competition including Pakistan, China, Japan, South Korea and Malaysia. India will play their first match of the Asian Champions Trophy against Japan at the Wisma Belia Hockey Stadium on Thursday, and they should be strong favourites to start with a win. If they play to their full potential, India can even lift the title for the second time.
India have sent a strong team for the Champions Trophy, with PR Sreejesh, who had a wonderful Rio Olympics as goalkeeper, leading the team in the competition. Though players like VR Raghnunath will be missed by India, they have a quality squad, which can defeat any team in the next 10 days.
Experienced players like Rupinder Pal Singh and Birender Lakra will be the key defenders, while the former will also play an integral role as the drag-flicker. They have a strong midfield, with Sardar Singh at the centre of the park, and players like Manpreet Singh and SK Uthappa keen to help the former captain.
Up front, they are a dangerous unit. SV Sunil, with his pace, can be a lethal player for India against Japan. If the player is allowed some time on the ball in the offensive end, the forward can use his dribbling skills and speed to score a goal, which Japan defence needs to be careful against. If Sunil has an off day, Nikkin Thimmaiah needs to take that goal-scoring responsibility.
With such class players in the team, India will be favourite to defeat Japan, who are ranked 16th in the world. But Roelant Oltmans' men cannot afford to take Japan lightly. Japan may be the underdog, but they will make India pay if they lose concentration during the match. Japan might be keen to use their pacy players to open up India's defence, and convert their chances.
Japan, who have a good mix of youth and experience, will need to use their runners-up finish in the last edition as an inspiration to stun India.
Where to watch live
India vs Japan Men's Asian Champions Trophy 2016 match is scheduled for 6 pm IST. The match will be shown live on Star Sports 4/HD, with the option of live streaming on Hotstar.