Hockey

Canada, France pose threats for India

Canada, ranked 14th in the world, and France, at 18th, may pose tough challenges for the 10th-placed Indian hockey team in the upcoming Olympic qualifier.

Even though both sides respect India's ability and ranking, they are confident about their preparations for the do-or-die event starting on February 18.

“Everyone is fighting for his life. We have to take every game seriously. There is no second chance,” said Canada coach Robin D'Abreo following the team's first practice session at the National Stadium here on Sunday.

Canada, which featured in the Beijing Olympics, had shown its keenness to make the London Games. “Since the Commonwealth Games, we have been preparing for this. We are at the peak of a four-year cycle. This is the most important part of the Olympics cycle,” said the India-born D'Abreo.

“We have every intention to win (the tournament),” he added.

One-game scenario

D'Abreo was careful about the format (round-robin matches followed by classification). “There are a lot of good teams, we are not underestimating any one. We have to play well to reach the final. Thereafter, it is a one-game scenario.”

“We recently played Poland and India in the Champions Challenge (in December). We played France early in 2011. We have little experience of other teams (Italy and Singapore).”

Talking about the importance of penalty corner conversions, D'Abreo rated Sandeep Singh of the home side very highly. “Sandeep is a great drag-flicker, he is a big threat for other teams.”

Canadian captain Ken Pereira said playing in India would be a huge experience for the youngsters in his side. “Some new players have come into the team after the Commonwealth Games. It is a pretty good mix of youth and experience. It could be a bit of challenge for the young players to play in front of a big crowd,” he said.

France, with some new players in its ranks, had a different situation to tackle. Since some of its players had been working abroad, it was difficult for the side to get them together for preparations.

“We have only three-four full time players. It is complicated to train. We trained for only 40 days in (last) three months,” said coach Frederic Soyez.

Deep inside, Soyez, who played international hockey for France for 15 years, wanted his country to break the 40-year-old jinx of not making the Olympics. “Last time we played the Olympics in 1972. That was long back.”

However, he understood the hurdles and was realistic about France's chances. “We will take one match at a time….We opt to play in the final,” said Soyez, who considered India as a “big favourite.”

France had played India the last time in July 2010 in Paris, where it had lost three matches to the visitors.

French captain Arnaud Becuwe put up a brave front, though. “We have trained hard to compete with some of the best sides in the tournament,” he said.

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Printable version | Apr 4, 2020 1:59:01 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/hockey/canada-france-pose-threats-for-india/article2886012.ece

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