Hockey coach Harendra Singh on Tuesday exuded confidence of the Indian team performing well in the 14th World Cup commencing in Bhubaneswar from Wednesday, saying ” It’s a team that can create history”. India will take on South Africa in their opener and the coach hoped that his side will open their campaign with a victory.
“I know that first match is important in every tournament. The win releases 40 to 50% of pressure. We are thinking on the same lines. We want full points in first match tomorrow. But for points, we can’t forget/sacrifice the basics of hockey, the strategy. “ he said.
Further elaborating he said “I expect their (SA) strikers will try to break us. But we have strategies in place. It’s mixed results so far for us (this year). We won’t compromise on playing attacking hockey against any team. We want to think ahead of the opponents.”
He did not agree with a question that team is inexperienced saying “It’s a team that can create history. You have to have patience. Selectors have considered these players good enough to wear India colours, be proud of it. Every player in the team understands it. ’’ Asked how he fancied his team’s chances, he said “ Did anyone think Ireland will reach women’s WC final and Croatia make it to FIFA WC final. Every team works on their strategy. It’s about that particular day.
He obviously did not like a question on defeat in the Asian Games saying , “ Hard fact is all of us have forgotten Asian Games defeat and you should also forget. We learn from history, gain experience but there is no point recalling it. We don’t even talk about it now in our meetings.
Asked about the format of this world cup, where there is a long gap between team’s matches, he replied “to be frank as a coach I support this format. Hockey is a fast game, result oriented, highly demanding. “Unfortunately, earlier we used to play the next match in 24 hours. Whenever it used to happen, we never got desired result. It helps to bring team into renewed mood. You come back with fresh mind and legs. You can play at the same intensity, margin of error reduces. “
To a query regarding being under pressure as his team is playing before the home crowd, he replied “ I enjoy pressure. I don’t know the outcome, but if I want to put in words, these coming three weeks are going to be the best moments of my career. ’’ Talking about the pool C, he said It’s a very unique Pool, All four teams are different, which is not the case in other pools. We have teams from American (CAN), African (SA), European (BEL) and Asian continent (IND). In every match, we have to play a different kind of hockey. We have done our homework.
Skipper Manpreet Singh made it clear that he was focusing on victories “We are not focusing on crossovers. If we top the pool, so we should not worry about it. We are focusing on our first match. We have improved over the last 3- 4 years, never won FIH medals. Won HWL bronze, then CT silver. Now it’s the WC. So have to show that we have improved at the highest level.
After AG, all of us were disappointed to concede in the last minute. We have worked on that a lot, also in team meetings. It will be better to keep the ball in opponent’s half. We want to top the pool and play in crossovers. You get an extra day then and know who you will play.
South African coach Mark Hopkins opined “It ’s an opportunity for us to showcase our skills. I think the pressure is on both sides. Being the host nation there is more pressure on India than us. We will just go out there and play the brand of hockey that is successful for us.”
“We are a proud sporting nation and as a group we are looking to create history. The goal for us is to finish the tournament as the most successful South African hockey team in the men’s World Cup,” he said.