The Indian Junior Men’s Hockey Team will take on hosts Malaysia in the opening match of the 8th Sultan of Johor Cup 2018 here on Saturday.
The team led by talented Mandeep Mor and Vice Captained by in-form forward Shilanand Lakra will look to start the prestigious tournament on a winning note.
“It is always important to begin the tournament with a win as it boosts the confidence and motivates the team to build on their performance as the event progresses.
But having said that, many players will also be playing their first international match and they must shake off the initial jitters to play their natural game,” stated Coach Jude Felix on the eve of the match.
In the previous year’s edition, India had beaten Malaysia 2-1 in a closely fought match. In the Bronze Medal classification match though, the team had elevated their performance to beat the hosts convincingly by 4-0 to finish with a Bronze.
“Playing the hosts in the first match is never easy because of the home ground support the opponents would enjoy.
But I am confident if these boys play their natural game, we should do well,” emphasized a confident Felix, who was also former India Captain.
The Indian Junior Men’s team will play New Zealand in their second match on Sunday and play against Japan on 9 October.
The team will take on defending champions Australia on 10 October and will play their last round robin match on 12 October against Great Britain.
Though last year, India won a high-scoring match (22-0) against USA, this year the minnows have been replaced by a formidable New Zealand squad who will pose to be a thorn in India’s aim to finish on the podium.
India had won three matches in the round robin stage (3-2 against Japan, 2-1 against Malaysia and 22-0 against USA) and had lost two close matches to Australia 3-4 and Great Britain 1-2 that saw them lose the Final berth.
“According to me it’s never about who we play but how well we play and we will go in with the mind set to play our best hockey.
We have prepared well for this tournament and the players are certainly looking forward to the first match, from there on we will take one match at a time,” expressed Felix.