Considered the favourite on the basis of its ranking and present form, India will look forward to sail smoothly when it starts its campaign against a lower-ranked Fiji in the Round 2 of the Hockey World League (HWL) at the National Stadium in New Delhi on Monday.
India, occupying the 11th place in the world rankings, will face the maximum challenge from Ireland (15) and China (18) as it aims to finish inside the top two in this event and qualify for the Round 3 of the HWL, which is the qualifying event for next year’s World Cup.
Asked whether this would be one of the easiest assignments for the Indian team, National chief coach Michael Nobbs replied in negative.
“Ireland and China are very good sides. When we played Oman in the Asian Champions Trophy (in December), they were unfit. They must have improved now. We have not played the other sides,” said Nobbs on Sunday.
Ireland (15), which narrowly missed the bus to the London Olympics, has come here well-prepared and China (18) has fielded a different team than the one played in the Asian Champions Trophy.
Oman (36), being coached by a German coach, and Fiji (71) will try to spring some surprises.
Indian captain Sardar Singh said the format, a round robin league, did not allow the host to relax against the low-ranked teams.
Nobbs hoped that the juniors, picked in the team on the basis of their performance in the Hockey India League (HIL), would play consistently.
The Fiji team, led by coach Hector Rocky Smith and his son Hector Albert Smith as captain, was encouraged with its effort of qualifying from Round 1. “I am taking a college team to beat India. There will be lessons to learn,” said Smith senior.