India is reliving the glory of the past as its young team made the quarterfinals of the prestigious Champions Trophy hockey tournament as group winners.
India will play newcomers Belgium in the knockout stages on Thursday coming off victories against England and New Zealand, and a narrow defeat against Olympic champions Germany.
However, the loss was still good enough to finish top of the group, which should boost morale of the youngest team at the eight-nation event with an average age of 23.
“The team moral is very high,” forward Uthappa said. “Losing 3-2 is not a bad result against the Olympic champion. It was more important for us to finish top of the pool. The confidence is very good now.”
German assistant coach Stefan Kermas was duly impressed, saying: “India always has good personnel. Here they are playing more stable and cautious as at the Olympics and that shows in the results.” India lost all six matches at the London 2012 Olympics, which prompted coach Michael Nobbs to bring in fresh talent, which he praises as “an enthusiastic lot.”
The Champions Trophy, which India entered on a wild card, is the first opportunity for them to shine ahead of hosting the next edition of the tournament in 2014, where the pressure will be bigger to get some sort of silverware.
India last competed at the elite event in 2005 and has only made the podium once, 30 years ago in third place in 1982.
Keywords: Champions Trophy hockey