With just a day to go until the India Men Hockey Team kick off their quest for the FINTRO Hockey World League Semi-Final at Antwerp, Belgium, where they will clash against France on the opening day of the all important tournament to get underway from tomorrow.
Ranked ninth in the world, Sardar Singh’s side are in the same pool with Australia, Poland, France and arch-rivals Pakistan. In the practice matches, India lost to Belgium 1-2 before defeating France by 1-0, Great Britain by 3-1 and USA by 4-0.
Having played against France in the first practice match ahead of the tournament, the Indian team had a good campaign by winning the match against France 1-0 through a brilliant penalty corner conversion by Rupinder Pal Singh. With a well balanced team of experience and youth, the Indian team is looking at a good start and a good run in the tournament.
India has yet another advantage in the head-to-head meeting with France as they notched up a win over them by 6-2 when they previously locked horns in the 2013 Rabobank Hockey World league Semi Finals in the Netherlands.
While both the teams are eyeing to attain a better record in the pool play so as to draw favourable results, the Indian men will be looking to continue their goal scoring spree as they implement their new strategy of 10 attacking and 10 defending and see how does it work for them. While Rupinder Singh Pal is coming back into converting the all important penalty corners, Akashdeep, Nikkin and Yuvraj will be looking at sneaking in the all important field goals and putting pressure on the opponents. The defence already has the extra boost as the whole team will be standing as a wall waiting for the opponents to face the challenge that they have been building during the practice sessions.
Commenting on their first clash against France, India Captain Sardar Singh said, “The tournament is important for us, as here we will be implementing new strategies and play which will help us gauge on where we stand as a team. We clashed against France during our practice session here and while we won the match we are still not over confident. The match against them got to the forefront that we had to capitalise on the initial chances and create pressure. For this we will strive to have maximum possession of the ball and keep attacking.”
Speaking ahead of the major tournament India Men Chief Coach Paul van Ass said, “The boys look in good form as they have showcased great play during the practice matches. But tomorrow will be the real test that they have to pass. Our practice match against Great Britain helped the team to work on the initial pressure that we had planned. I am hoping they continue this tomorrow. With France they have to be careful as they are a strong team and will not give in easily. The key tomorrow will be to get the crucial penalty corners in our name and convert them”.
Speaking on the upcoming tournament, Men Team goalkeeper PR Sreejesh stated, “In a fast-paced game and with the new rules, penalty corners have become goal-scoring opportunities. Everything happens in a fraction of a second and one bad reaction in the penalty corner can take the match away from you. Goalkeepers need to be very attentive and quick to anticipate the shots. We are improving ourselves in this area and our coaching staff are working extra-hours on penalty corners. Chief Coach Paul van Ass stresses on the improvement in penalty corners and we are trying-out new strategies to restrict goals. Being a key member of the strategies, I am also working on my agility and anticipation skills. I am happy with our progress in this area and very hopeful that our team will defend goals during penalty corners.”
Speaking on the upcoming tournament, Men Team Captain Sardar Singh stated, “Till now, everything is going fine and we have achieved satisfactory results in our training sessions and practice matches. The whole team, including the Coaches and Support Staff, has been working hard preparing for this tournament and we have improved a lot in various aspects. We are getting positive results from our new strategies and team combination till now. It’s unfortunate that we lost to Belgium in our practice match but we have learnt many things about our strategies from that match, which will help us. We are now focussing on our finishing and converting our attacks in goals. With the addition of new and young players, the team combination becomes more flexible, which is helping us to create more options in drawing new strategies. The weather is very cool here and best suited to playing hockey. We are looking forward to the first match and want to start our campaign with a win.”
Fintro Hockey World League Semi-Final 2015 is scheduled from 20th June to 05th July 2015. India will face the France in their opening match of the tournament at 21:30 IST on the 20th June 2015. The matches will be telecasted LIVE on Star Sports.
Schedule of India Team (Full Schedule)
|20 June 2015||21:30 IST||India||V/S||France|
|23 June 2015||19:30 IST||India||V/S||Poland|
|26 June 2015||19:30 IST||India||V/S||Pakistan|
|28 June 2015||19:30 IST||India||V/S||Australia|