~ Italy Women's Hockey Team will face off against New Zealand in their first game ~

Ranchi, 4th January 2024: With their sights set on their maiden Olympic berth, the Italy Women’s Hockey Team arrived in Ranchi, Jharkhand on Thursday morning for the highly-awaited FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers 2024. The Italian team led by Co-Captains Federica Carta and Sara Puglisi will begin their campaign on 13th January 2024 against the New Zealand, which will be the first meeting between the two teams in seven years.

Upon arriving in Ranchi, Captain Sara Puglisi expressed excitement for the upcoming tournament and opened up on the team's preparations for the upcoming matches. "We have had a few months of preparations together. We have worked a lot - we have come here and we will finish our final steps of training this week and then we will start the tournament together. It is quite exciting."

Italy, which are placed 19th at the FIH World Rankings, are grouped in Pool B, will take on the USA on 14th January, and then play their final Pool game against India on 16th January. The other teams in the fray include Olympic Silver medalists Germany, former Asian Games Champions Japan, Chile and the Czech Republic in Pool A. The top 3 teams from the tournament will qualify for the Paris Olympic Games 2024.

But despite facing off against higher-ranked teams in the tournament, the Italian skipper expressed confidence in her side's abilities. "We know it will be a tough competition. But everything is open and nothing is impossible. We will do what we need to get the results in our favour."

Italy are the second team to have arrived to Ranchi, after the hosts India, and Captain Sara gave a clear reason behind the team's early arrival. "We wanted to finish our preparations here so that we get used to the weather and the turf - hence we decided to come early."

While Italy have achieved several distinctions in Women's Hockey over the years, including a Gold medal at the 2013 EuroHockey Nations Championship II, they are yet to earn an Olympic berth. On being asked what it would mean for the team to qualify for Paris, Sara said, "It has been a long time since we have been waiting to go to the Olympics, so if we are able to qualify, we will be over the moon. It's a dream for everyone."

Meanwhile, Italy Women's Hockey Team Chief Coach Andrés Mondo backed his team despite the lack of experience and explained why no one should take the team lightly. "We are a very new and young team, and you could see we are using different formations. At the moment, we are ranked at no 19. But this team, the quality of players that we have, we do not feel we are number 19," he signed off.

Matches will be live on Sports18 / Jio Cinema.

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