Hockey Olympic Qualifiers: Japan target podium finish at Paris

Soon after qualifying for the Paris Olympic Games by beating hosts India for the last qualifying spot available in Ranchi, Japan coach Jude Menezes said they will aim for a podium finish in the French capital.

Soon after qualifying for the Paris Olympic Games by beating hosts India for the last qualifying spot available in Ranchi, Japan coach Jude Menezes said they will aim for a podium finish in the French capital.

Japan defeated India in the third-place match in the FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers here on Friday to qualify for the sixth consecutive Olympic Games since making their debut in the 2004 edition in Athens.

Asked what he makes of the fact that Japan have qualified for the Olympics five times but could not climb onto the podium even once, Menezes said they would take that as a target for this team.

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“Well, now we’ll set a target to have to try for a podium finish because we don’t want to just participate in the Olympic Games. We want to try to finish on the podium. That’s what we’ve talked about, podium finishes,” said Menezes on Friday.

Menezes, the 52-year-old former India player who had earned 133 international caps, said the team had a tough journey since the Tokyo Olympic Games.

“Since Tokyo, it’s been hard because a lot of players have retired. We know have a very young team and to get it ready for these qualifiers,” he said crediting the players for their hard work and determination.

The former India goalkeeper, who represented the country in the Sydney Olympic Games, said he has not proved a point by helping Japan clinch the Olympic berth with a victory against India in India.

“No, not at all. I’m a professional hockey coach. I’m just doing my job and at the moment I’m working for Japan Hockey and my loyalty and everything I do in terms of work is with Japan hockey at the moment. So I’m not trying to prove a point to anyone, I’m just trying to win every game we play,” said Menezes, who has settled in New Zealand since 2002. He still has family connections in Mumbai where he was born.

(IANS)

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