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Tokyo 2020: Potential India Vs Pak headache for FI (8/26/2019)
--s2h Team
An India vs Pakistan men's Olympic hockey qualifier looms large.

Mathematically, the marquee clash holds a strong chance of happening, given the FIH rankings criteria and the luck of the draw.

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Belgium, Argentina and South Africa have qualified directly by winning their respective continental championships.

Japan have qualified directly by virtue of being hosts as well as clinching the Asian Games gold medal last year.

The Olympic tournament comprises 12 nations with four slots already filled and one continental championship (Oceania) yet to emerge.

After the Oceania championship early September, there will be seven berths up for grabs.

It would take wishful thinking to bet against world No. 1 Australia winning the Oceania gold and qualifying for the Tokyo Games next year.

A total of 14 nations based on rankings and FIH Series Finals finalists make up the qualifying head-to-head double leg playoffs in October-November.

If it goes according to script and Australia qualify directly, India (currently ranked fifth) will become the second best ranked.

If New Zealand spring a coup, India will remain the third best ranked team in the fray.

Either way, India are on a possible collision course with Pakistan.

This is because the top three best ranked nations will be drawn by lots to find opponents from the bottom three where Pakistan (currently 12th in the pecking order and 17th in the rankings) find themselves.

China or Austria are India's other possible opponents.

India by virtue of being a higher ranked nation will be deemed hosts.

The big question would be whether a match in India would be allowed to take place given the current political scenario.

It would then seem likely that the qualifier involving India will be held at a neutral venue.

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