The Indian senior men’s hockey team ended a 41-year wait and won the bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics.
The eyes of the junior team will be on the third World Cup. First, India won the Junior Hockey World Cup in 2001 in Hobart, Australia and then won the title in 2016 in Lucknow.
The Junior Hockey World Cup is considered an important link to make a place in the senior hockey team. Nine players in the Junior World Cup 2016 squad played the Tokyo Olympics. The members of the Vivek Sagar Prasad-led Indian team would like to grab the attention of the senior selectors with their performances.
He has benefited immensely from being with the senior players, practicing and playing matches before the tournament.
Apart from senior players like Manpreet Singh and PR Sreejesh, India’s head coach Graham Reid has also worked hard with the junior team which is coached by BJ Cariappa.
The junior team has a captain who has played at the top level and won Olympic medals in the form of Arjuna awardee Prasad. Star drag flicker Sanjay will be the vice-captain.
Prasad said, “Our team became champions in 2016 and now we want to perform in the same way.”
Head coach Reid said that the junior team has benefited from the practice with the senior. “We could not play abroad but the junior players played warm-up matches with the senior team in Bhubaneswar which has paid off,” he said.
He said, “Since coming to Bhubaneswar, we are trying to adapt to the situation. It was good to practice here before the start of the tournament.
India are placed in Pool B along with France, Canada and Poland. Pool A consists of Belgium, Malaysia, Chile and South Africa while Pool C has teams from Netherlands, Spain, Korea and USA. Pool D consists of Germany, Pakistan, Egypt and Argentina. The top two teams from each pool will advance to the quarterfinals.
India is among the top contenders along with Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands as Australia and England withdrew due to travel restrictions related to Corona.
Germany has won the title six times and India twice. Argentina, Australia and Pakistan have won the title once.
“We have picked an 18-man squad and there are two alternate players,” Reid said. This team is capable of winning the title again because it is very balanced. They have full faith in each other and in their preparations.
After France, India will play Canada on 25 November and Poland on 27 November. All matches will be played at Kalinga Stadium in a bio-secure environment without spectators.
On the first day itself, Belgium will face South Africa, Malaysia will face Chile, Germany will face Pakistan and Canada will face Poland.