The Indian hockey team has hardly been in places over the years with disappointing run-ins in major tourneys and not to forget that dismal performance in the London Olympics 2012.
The Indian hockey team has hardly been in places over the years with disappointing run-ins in major tourneys and not to forget that dismal performance in the London Olympics 2012. But the Men In Blue will look to start afresh as they go against one of Europe’s rising hockey powerhouse Belgium in the World Cup opener on Saturday.
Gone are the days when India ruled the sport of hockey as 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. European Cup runners-up Belgium are the new powerhouse to contend with after making impressive strides in the past three years.
India last met the Belgians during the 2011 Champions Challenge in Johannesburg where they upstaged India in the last five minutes to clinch the title after conceding a two-goal lead. In what could be a cause for concern, the Belgians have lost just one of the past four key encounters with India. The Belgians went on to post a victory over India in the 2012 Olympics Games but Sardar’s men avenged that defeat as India hung on to a lone-goal lead in the quarter-finals of the Champions Trophy in Melbourne later that year.
On Saturday, the Indians will seek to avenge their past defeats, and get off to a flying start in the World Cup. India are drawn in Group A alongside defending champions Australia, formidable Spain and Belgium, beside 2012 Olympic semi-finalists England and fast improving Malaysia.
The key player for Team India will be skipper Sardar Singh while the likes of Yuvraj Walmiki, who is making his debut in this World Cup, could also spring a surprise. In his pre-match presser, Sardar added that, “We’re ready for the big moment.” The challenge is before them and the under-achievers need to perform at their highest level, if they are achieve some success. Coach Terry Walsh stated prior to the tournament that the team is focussing on a top-6 finish. Well, if the players perform to their potential, then anything is possible.
The likes of Ramandeep Singh, Birendra Lakra, VR Raghunath etc. need to buck up and raise the level of their game. With the likes of Australia and Belgium in their way, India have a tough task on their hands.