Hockey World Cup begins on Saturday Sports

India look for a solid start against Belgium

Injury-hit India will be seeking to reverse the tide of their recent encounters against Europe’s rising hockey powerhouse Belgium in the World Cup opener at the Kyocera Stadium on Saturday.

Far removed from the glorious era of India’s global domination, the Sardar Singh-led team is aspiring to give a credible show in the World Cup, where India has not qualified for the semi-finals for nearly four decades since the title triumph of 1975 in Kuala Lumpur.s

European Cup runners-up Belgium are the new force to contend with on the hockey turf after making impressive strides during the past three years.

India are drawn in Group A alongside defending champions Australia, formidable Spain and Belgium, beside 2012 Olympic semi-finalists England and fast improving Malaysia.

Group B features Olympic gold medalists Germany and hosts The Netherlands -winners of two World Cup title each.

Completing the lines up are Argentina, New Zealand, South Korea and South Africa.

“We’re ready for the big moment,” says Indian skipper Sardar Singh, while the team’s high-performance director Roelant Oltmans stresses on the need for consistency if India are to maintain their upward spiral in the sport.

Having seen frequent changes to its coaching staff, India are now under the charge of ex-Australian striker Terry Walsh for whom “psychology has been a significant area of team preparation.”

“We have introduced new tactics and focused on the development of each player,” says Walsh, who expects the Indian players to prove their mettle by raising the level of their game against stronger teams.

Only four Indian players of the current side featured in the eight-place finish at the last World Cup on New Delhi’s home turf, yet the young team is confident of overcoming the injury-caused setback after strikers Ramandeep Singh and Nikkin Thimmaiah were sidelined during a practice match and training after reaching The Hague. They were replaced by Lalit Upadhyaya and Yuvraj Walmiki.

In comparison, the Belgians are the more seasoned outfit. Although playing in their first World Cup since the 2002 event in Kuala Lumpur, Belgium’s squad features 10 players who have played more than 100 internationals.

Plotting the Belgian success is also a Dutch coach, Marc Lammers, under whose charge The Netherlands women won the gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Belgium are facing their own fitness woes with key defender and penalty corner shooter Loick Luypaert ruled out of the tournament by injury.

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Printable version | Oct 24, 2020 10:01:27 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/in-school/sports/india-look-for-a-solid-start-against-belgium/article6066142.ece

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