Indian men's hockey team will look to open their campaign at the 5th edition of the Men's Asian Champions Trophy with a convincing performance as they face hosts Oman in their opening match on Thursday.
World number five India go into the tournament as the highest ranked the Asian nation, and will be looking to bounce back from their subdued Bronze Medal finish at the recently-concluded 18th edition of the Asian Games.
India beat Oman 7-0 when the two teams met the last time during the 2014 Asian Games, but Chief Coach Harendra Singh believes that facing the hosts will be a good test for the Indian team ahead of other crucial round-robin pool matches.
"We are very excited to start our 5th Men's Asian Champions Trophy Muscat 2018 campaign against the hosts Oman, who will be playing in front of their home crowd. The opening match will be a good test for us ahead of some crucial pool matches against the likes of Malaysia, Pakistan, Japan and South Korea," Singh said.
"It is important for us to the start the competition by doing the basics right and producing our best performance in order to build momentum for the upcoming fixtures," he added.
India went into the tournament as the defending Champions, having won the 2016 edition by defeating Pakistan 3-2 in the Final match. But Harendra Singh believes that the team needs to minimize errors if they are to lift the coveted trophy again.
"We know that we have a good team which is capable of defeating any country in the world, but sometimes things do not go your way. Therefore, it is important for the unit to keep their focus throughout the sixty minutes and not give the opponents any chances," he said.
"We have to make sure that we have improved from the mistakes that we committed at the 18th Asian Games, and this tournament gives us the perfect opportunity to regain confidence ahead of the Odisha Hockey Men's World Cup Bhubaneswar 2018. Our immediate aim is to qualify for the Semi-Finals of the competition and the team will work hard to achieve that," he added.
After playing Oman in the first match, India will face arch-rivals Pakistan on October 20, Japan on October 21, Malaysia on October 23 and South Korea on October 24.
The last edition of the tournament saw India remain undefeated as they beat Japan 10-2, drew 1-1 with South Korea, beat Pakistan 3-2, beat China 9-0 and Malaysia 2-1 in the Pool stages while winning their Semi-Final match against South Korea 5-4 in Penalty Shootout.
India and Pakistan have both won two titles each and will be looking to win a record third time when the tournament starts on October 18 with world number twelve Malaysia taking on 2018 Asian Games gold medalists Japan in the first match, followed by India facing hosts Oman.
India had won the inaugural edition in 2011, whereas Pakistan won the 2012 and 2013 editions by defeating India and Japan respectively before India won the 2016 edition by beating Pakistan in the Final.
India will face Oman in their opening match of the tournament on October 18.