Hockey World Cup: Do-or-die battle for India in Bhubaneswar

Hockey World Cup: Do-or-die battle for India in Bhubaneswar

Team India practicing for tomorrow’s INDIA VS NEW ZEALAND

India is all set to take on New Zealand in the play off for the quarterfinals of the Hockey world Cup at the Kalinga Stadium here on Sunday.

The Team India’s showing in 3 pool D league matches has hardly been inspiring, as the men in blues have scored only six goals while conceding two that too against Wales.

On the other hand, Australia, The Netherlands, Belgium, England, Germany and Argentina to an extent have shown their dexterity and flair both in open play and penalty corners. Thrice champions the Dutch and the Aussies have fired in 22 and 20 goals respectively.


The home team’s penalty corner conversions have been abysmal to say the least with the highly touted skipper Harmanpreet falling far short of expectations with only one strike in as many as 19 attempts.

He, along with Varun Kumar, Amit Rohidas, Jarmanpreet Singh and Nilam Sanjeep Xess were fine-tuned at the final preparatory camp pre-Christmas camp in December at Bangalore by twice Olympic gold medalist Dutchman Bram Lomans.

Adding to the anxiety is the non-availability of star striker Hardik Singh, who has been ruled out of the tournament due to injury and his absence will definitely impact the forward line.

However, this play off being the knockout affair the hosts cannot afford any let-up. To stay alive in the tournament, they have to win the match as there is no other option.

Coach Graham Reid is aware of the situation as he admitted that the crossover game against New Zealand will be very tough, “We played them here in the Pro League twice. They will come out like Wales, very energized” adding that the team  will miss the  creative brilliance of midfielder Hardik Singh, “overnight we had to make the difficult decision of replacing Hardik Singh in the  Team for Sunday’s match  against  New Zealand and the subsequent World Cup matches.”

“While it is extremely disappointing for Hardik, personally of course, given how well he played in our first two matches, we are excited at the prospects of Raj Kumar joining the group for the remaining World Cup matches, Reid said while exuding confidence of his team coming out winner “the boys are aware of the situation, they are determined, the past matches will have no impact on Sunday’s encounter.”

The Indians will have to convert even half chances and they don’t have the luxury to muff the chances that will come their way.

On the other hand, Black Sticks are always a force to be reckoned with, being blessed with some genuine world class players amongst their ranks. Both Blair Tarrant and Kane Russel are fine defenders and amongst their most capped players

The likes of veteran striker Simon Child with 291 caps with forwards Sam Lane and Jake Smith can be quite a handful for any opposition, as is penalty corner weapon Russel. Highly regarded defensive midfielder Nick Ross has returned after a break and with skipper Nick Woods, playing his 150th international, will attempt to block the central channel.

India played the Black Sticks 6 times in previous World Cups being victorious thrice while one match was a draw. Their last encounter was at Kuala Lumpur in 2002 where the Kiwis had prevailed.

New Zealand who played a strong warm up game against India (winning 3-0 over three quarters) has never finished higher than seventh in the World Cup.

But coach, former South African double Olympian, Greg Nicol says that they need to have a result that is different from the past. “I want the team to come out and show their flair and play with freedom,” he added.