Hockey to rock Singapore
Top Asian sides set to light up Women's Asian Champions Trophy in Sengkang
It was a disappointing Rio Olympics for Asia's top women's hockey teams in August, with all four representatives failing to qualify from the group stages.
Europe ruled the roost as Great Britain won the gold medal, Holland finished second and Germany settled for bronze.
The four Asian nations - China (ranked eighth in the world), South Korea (ninth), Japan (10th) and India (12th) - will be looking to bounce back from their Olympic disappointment at the Women's Asian Champions Trophy (tomorrow to Nov 6), where they will be joined by 21st-ranked Malaysia.
Singapore will not be participating, but national women's coach David Viner believes fans will be in for a treat at the Sengkang Hockey Stadium for the week-long tournament.
"There will be some really close games, aggressive games, to catch. You'll be able to understand the intensity involved at the elite level of women's hockey," the 59-year-old Australian told The New Paper.
"The playing styles on show will be a little different, but the top three teams are all close to each other, and there will be some quality competitive hockey on show, whatever the match-ups."
World No. 43 Singapore were offered a spot in the tournament, but the Singapore Hockey Federation turned it down due to scheduling issues.
"The teams are close in the world rankings, only Malaysia are further off in 21st, and it's going to be very competitive," said Viner, who will be keeping a close watch on the action.
"There is a gulf in standards between teams near the top 10 and those in the top 20s like Malaysia, who seem to be clear underdogs at the tournament. So you can imagine what the gap will be to a team ranked in the 40s, like us.
"We played in the AHF Cup (Oct 1-9) because there were world ranking points at stake and that was just a couple of weeks ago. It would have been difficult to get our players a leave of absence (from their various commitments) to play.
"If we did play, it would not have been with the same team," added Viner, whose team finished second behind Thailand at the AHF Cup.
"Now that we finished second at the AHF Cup, we'll be playing against these (Champions Trophy) teams at next year's Asia Cup.
"The average age of our squad at the AHF Cup was about 19, and I think we'll be better prepared in a year's time than we would have been here."
There looks to be no lack of top-class hockey action from this five-team tournament.
As India coach Neil Hawgood put it, his side are eager to show what they are capable of, after a dismal Olympics campaign, where they finished bottom of their six-team pool.
Said Hawgood: "Though the Olympics could have ended better for the girls, they are high on confidence as they got to see what it really takes to play at the highest level and are vying to showcase top-quality hockey during the Asian Champions Trophy."
The tournament will be played in a round-robin format before progressing to bronze- and gold-medal play-offs.
The action starts tomorrow at the Sengkang Stadium with South Korea facing Malaysia at 4pm.
Japan will take on India in the second game at 6pm. Admission is free.
Women's Asian Champions Trophy
Sengkang Hockey Stadium (Free entry)
Tomorrow to Nov 6
- South Korea