The Russian men’s hockey team arrived in Bhubaneswar on Sunday to take part in a two-match FIH Olympic Qualifiers to be played at the Kalinga Stadium on November 1 and 2.

Denis Shchipachev, Russia captain, is excited ahead of the all-important fixtures as they return to India after their previous appearance during the FIH Series Finals in June this year. “It is exciting to return to India. We had a great experience last time playing here in front of very passionate hockey fans. Although the weather in June was very hot for us, we are hopeful this time of the year is cooler here and we can get acclimatised early,” he said on Sunday.

When the India last met Russia during the FIH Series Final, they had beaten them by a whopping margin of 10-0. However, the Russians are confident of a better show this time. “India is a very good team, much higher ranked than us. We are still a developing country in hockey but having said that, we are confident of putting up a good show against them. We have prepared well and we will put up a good fight for Olympic Qualification,” added Denis.

The FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers is the last stage of qualification for the Tokyo Olympics 2020, where a total of 14 teams in both men’s and women’s categories will be vying for a place for the games next year. Each qualifier consists of two teams playing each other in back-to-back matches at the same venue. The winners will qualify for the 2020 Olympic which will be staged in Japan’s capital city from 25 July to 7 August next year.

The Indian women hockey team will also be in action to qualify for the Olympics when they face USA on November 1 and 2.