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India to start campaign against Italy in Olympic hockey qualifiers

Eight-time hockey Olympic champions India will start their campaign against lowly-ranked Italy in the men's Olympic qualifiers for the 2012 London Games that would be held at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here Feb 18-26.

The men's field, besides hosts India, also includes Canada, France, Poland, Italy and the United States. India enter the event as highest ranked team in the tournament at world No.10. The two top teams will play the final and the winner will qualify for the London Olympics.

India shockingly failed to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Games for the first time in 80 years.

This time the world No.10 have been handed a favourable draw and will open their campaign Feb 18 against Italy, who are lying in the 28th spot in FIH rankings.

The women's tournament will also be played simultaneously and, besides India, the participating teams are South Africa, Italy, Canada, Ukraine and Poland. South Africa are the top-seeded team and are ranked world No.12 while India are world No.13.

In all, six Olympic spots are up for grabs, three each from the men and the women's section. The winners of each of the six Olympic Qualification Tournaments will earn a berth to the London 2012 Games.

Men's schedule:
Feb 18: Canada vs USA (2pm), France vs Poland (4pm), India vs. Italy (8pm)
Feb 19: Canada vs. Poland (12pm), Italy vs. France (4pm), India vs. US (8pm)
Feb 21: Italy vs. Canada (12pm), Poland vs USA (4pm), France vs. India (8pm)
Feb 22: Poland vs. Italy (12pm), US vs France (4pm), Canada vs. India (8pm)
Feb 24: US vs Italy (2pm), France vs. Canada (4pm), India vs. Poland (8pm)
Feb 26: 5th vs. 6th (3pm), 3rd vs. 4th (3.30pm), 1st vs.2nd (8pm)

Women's schedule:
Feb 18:South Africa vs. Poland (10am), Italy vs. Canada (12pm), India vs. Ukraine (6pm)
Feb 19:Poland vs. Italy (10am), South Africa vs. Ukraine (2pm), India vs. Canada (6pm)
Feb 21:Canada vs. Ukraine (10am), Italy vs. South Africa (12pm), Poland vs India (6pm)
Feb 22:Ukraine vs. Italy (10am), canada vs. Poland (2pm), India vs. South Africa (6pm)
Feb 24:South Africa vs. Canada (10am), Ukraine vs. Poland 912pm), Italy vs. India (6pm)
Feb 25: 5th vs. 6th (3pm), 3rd vs. 4th (5.30pm), 1st vs. 2nd (8pm)

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