With less than two weeks to go for the start of the prestigious Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup Bhubaneswar 2018 on 28 November which will witness 16 top teams battle for supremacy in front of hockey-crazy spectators at the iconic Kalinga Stadium, hosts the Indian Men’s Hockey Team are busy making final preparations to their campaign.
The side has exuberance of youth with seven members from the 2016 Junior World Cup winning squad.
Combined that with the mastery of players such as PR Sreejesh, Chinglensana Singh, Akashdeep Singh and Manpreet Singh who have registered over 150 International appearances for India, the hosts invoke expectations of a top-three finish, something India has not managed to achieve since 1975.
While creating history in Bhubaneswar is on Team India’s mind, Manpreet Singh emphasized on being focused on their immediate goal which is to top the Pool.
“There is no doubt we want to win every match in the Pool Stage, earn the three points from each match, and top the Pool to make the Quarter Final.
That is our first hurdle. It’s the World Cup and every team will come with an intention of winning and we do not want to take any team lightly, be it South Africa, Canada or World No.3 Belgium,” expressed midfielder Manpreet Singh who has been in lethal form.
The host nation grouped in Pool C will face off against South Africa on 28 November, play Belgium on 2 December followed by their last Pool C match against Canada on 8 December.
While the Indian team has not faced South Africa in a major tournament in over two years, Manpreet stated that a win in their first match will set them on the right course.
“Though we haven’t played them in any major tournament, we played a practice match against South Africa during the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
That match gave us an idea of how they play. Though we won we don’t want to go by the past result.
We play them in our first match and it’s always good to get off to a winning start in any tournament,” added the 26-year-old Captain.
While India have tasted success against Belgium in their recent outings — FIH Champions Trophy in Breda and last year’s Hockey World League Final where they beat them in the same ground in the Quarter Final match, Canada has posed India some serious threat in their past campaigns at major International Tournaments.
The team had drawn 2-2 against Canada in the round robin league at the Rio Olympics and in the 2017 Hockey World League Semi Final in London, India had lost 3-2 in the 5th-6th place play-off to Canada.
“It was a forgettable outing for us but I believe we have improved as a team in the past two years and we have learnt from every tournament.
If we play our best hockey, who we are playing should not matter. Even against Belgium, if we are able to score early then the pressure will be on them.
For now, our team is focused on winning the three points from each match in Pool C,” he emphasized.