Thursday, January 6 2022

Riding the wave of enthusiasm that followed the senior team’s glory at the Tokyo Olympics, defending champion India is eager to give a memorable performance at the Junior Men’s World Cup of Hockey from the iconic Kalinga Stadium here on Wednesday.

As the pandemic casts its spell and makes it a spectator-less event, Odisha’s government has put in place robust Covid measures, including regular testing and monitoring and maintaining a strict bio-bubble for teams, in order to provide a secure JWC.

Without adequate knowledge of opponents due to lack of exposure, teams are eager to get the most out of the experience.

Several players from the Indian Under-21 team that won the 2016 title in Lucknow were part of the successful Tokyo Olympic team. The current group must be eager to emulate them.

Graham Reid: The practice games against the senior team were very useful

India, with all bases covered and having already won silver in the 2018 Youth Olympic Games and bronze in the Sultan of Johor Cup 2017, will face France, host of the 2024 Olympics, in their first meeting. of Pool B on Wednesday.

India, who will face Canada on November 25 and Poland on November 27, have the potential to reach the quarter-finals.

The Indian juniors, who have played in training matches with the seniors, continue on the theme of “keeping the team together” – a message from senior team captain Manpreet Singh to fellow bronze medalist from Tokyo midfielder Vivek Sagar Prasad, the leader of the foals. Head Coach Graham Reid’s “team first” mantra is perfectly in sync.

Despite the absence of Australia, New Zealand and England, the traditional European nations of Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain, the Asian powers of Pakistan, Korea and Malaysia, representatives from the southern hemisphere of Argentina, South Africa and Chile, and aspiring countries like the United States and Egypt will provide different shades of hockey to make the event of the 16 nations an interesting affair.

India-France opening

Without much knowledge of France, India must be at its best in their opening Pool B game, India coach Graham Reid said.

Reid expects France, which would host the Paris Olympics in 2024, to play the European style of hockey. “France is a very good team, I imagine. We have seen footage from some matches. They play like a European team: they hold the ball, move quickly and attack from the right. They have a few good forwards. We have to be at our best, ”said Reid.

Indian captain Vivek has said his side will play positively against France. “This is the first game. We want to take three points. It’s a big scene. We have to keep the team together on and off the pitch. Keeping the pitch together off the pitch helps keep it together on the pitch, ”he said.

France coach Aymeric Bergamo said: “We know it’s a tough game. India are the (reigning) world champion, playing at home. It is a great nation in field hockey. We must be ready.

France, the second surprise of the 2013 edition in Delhi, qualified for the JWC on the basis of their sixth place in the 2019 EuroHockey Junior Championship.

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