The Hague, Netherlands, 30 May 2014 – India will open their Rabobank Hockey World Cup 2014 campaign against Belgium, who are 3 places above the Asians sitting at 8th place in world ranking.
It will be an important day for both Indian Men Hockey Captain Sardar Singh as well as Begium Captain John-John Dohmen as both are looking at opening the all important tournament with a win in their kitty.
Speaking on the opening match tomorrow, Indian Captain Sardar Singh said, “The team is all set for the opening match against Belgium and we are confident to make a winning start. We are putting our strategies in place for each player of Belgium with great focus on their drag flicker Tom Boon. We all are aware that he is one of the best drag flickers in the world today and hence the team is working on how best to tackle him. Keeping him under control will be like half the game won. Last we played Belgium in the Hero World League Finals 2014 and we lost the match to them 2-1 and this was solely because of the goal scored by Tom Boon in the last few minutes and till that point the game was locked at 1-1. So he cannot be taken lightly at any point in the game”.
Sardar Singh further said “I am happy that we as a team performed really well in our last warm-up match against South Africa here and won it with a decent margin. This win has helped boost our confidence level. I have advised my teammates not to take any pressure during matches and just play their natural game and stay positive on the field”.
Terry Walsh Chief Coach of the Indian Team speaking on the preparations said “We had a good game against South Africa yesterday which is a good sign of confidence and control, melding it with some Indian flair and dodging capabilities. Lalit and Yuvraj have settled in well and are looking in great form. The two goals scored by Rupinder Pal Singh in the last warm-up game played against South Africa makes me believe that he is the player to be looked out for in our tomorrow’s match. All the boys are a determined group oozing with confidence and positivity. While the team is confident for its opening match against Belgium tomorrow we cannot forget Belgium’s target for World Cup and plus the fact that they have been playing very good hockey recently with positive results. From our end we will focus on our style and thwart the powers they can potentially bring. Our objective is to perform close to our potential and execute effectively at the crucial moments. That will make us a formidable opponent for Belgium tomorrow”.
Going by the past records India and Belgium have clashed thrice in the last 2 years with the recent one being during the European Tour. While the last two clashes resulted in India losing to Belgium but both the losses can easily be termed as hard wins for the opponents. The third clash which was during the 2012 Men’s Hockey Champions Trophy held in Melbourne, it was India who defeated Belgium by 1-2. Although Belgium has more wins in its kitty against India but the 31st May 2014 match can be expected to highly competitive.
For India the players to be watched out for will be the forward Mandeep Singh who has been outstanding in the FIH World League Round Final in New Delhi early this year. Other forwards, debutant Lalit Upadhayay and Yuvraj Walmiki who joined the team post the injuries of Ramandeep Singh and Nikkin Thimmiah are also ready for the challenge. The experienced forward SV Sunil who represented the country in 131 international matches has potential to get his name regularly on the score sheet. Apart from them, the comeback player Gurbaj Singh will be closely watched for his speed and grit on the field, Sardar Singh for how well he fares in taking his team to a victory in the opening match and it will be a big opportunity for debutant Jasjit Singh to showcase his talent in his first international match when he takes field against Belgium.
On the other side both Jeremy Gucassoff as well as Vincent Vanasch will be looking at not allowing a single goal getting scored when they are standing guard for the team at the goal post with John john Dohmen looking at taking his team to victory along with Tom Boon.
Speaking on the upcoming challenges Goalkeeper PR Sreejesh said “Yes while we will be missing out on both Nikkin Thimmaiah and Ramandeep Singh, it has not dampened our spirits; rather we are more determined to win. We will play to win for them as their hopes are pinned on us. The first game is critical for both India as well as the Belgians. The Belgium side at The Hague is one of the most experienced team with ten players having surpassed the 100 international appearances mark but I feel that our team which is a combination of young and experienced players will give them a tough challenge. Our opening match in the World Cup will be a war between Jeremy Gucassoff & Vincent Vanasch the goalkeepers of Belgium on one side and with Harjot Singh and I on the other side. Let’s see who is able to save more goals for their country. For both of us Indians, we are up for the challenge and will ensure we are the winners. Winners for not only saving the goals but also winners in the winning team. So I think the Belgians need to think hard and strategise themselves to surpass us”
India will clash against Belgium in their first game of Rabobank Hockey World Cup 2014 which will be live on Ten Sports on 31st May 2014 at 19:30 hrs (IST).