Bogged down by two successive losses, an under-pressure Indian hockey team will be confronted by Spain’s livewire strikers when the two teams clash in their preliminary league encounter of the World Cup at the Greenfields Stadium here on Thursday.
After conceding match-winners to Belgium and England in the closing stages of successive matches, the Indian defence will need to raise its game several notches against Spain, which won a penalty shootout against India for the fifth position when they last met in the 2013 World League semifinals.
Santi Frexia and seasoned Eduard Tubau would be major threat to the wobbly defence of India.
Roelant Oltmans feels the high-quality players in the Spanish team could pose problems for India. But the players, according to Oltmans, are professional enough to overcome the trauma of the losses in earlier games.
“We’ve not played Spain often in recent times, but they have several high-quality players in their ranks,” said Oltmans. “We’ll have to perform well as a team to overcome this rival.”
While India has no points from two outings, Spain has just one from a 1-1 draw against England following which it was beaten 3-0 by defending champion Australia.
Spanish coach Salvador Indurain says his team has not lost hope of making the semifinals. “We’ll now play every match as a final. The Indians are complicated rivals. India is also ranked higher than us and it’s not going to be easy for us,” said Indurain.
“We know how the Indians play and they’ve improved a lot.
“We’re not as strong as we used to be a few years ago, although we have several senior players,” he added.
Tuesday’s result: Men: The Netherlands 2 (Hertzberger 21, Kemperman 69) bt South Korea 1 ( Hyun-woo 4).