Hockey World Cup 2018: Can India get past the Netherlands in epic quarterfinal?
Two of the most passionate hockey-playing nations on earth will be hoping to outdo the other in what promises to be a contest to remember.
The hosts will no doubt be buoyed by the atmosphere of the Kalinga Stadium - but how will the Dutch cope with the vociferous chants of the Odisha crowd, who will no doubt be rooting for the home team in Thursday's quarterfinal?
Sportskeeda checked with Max Caldas, Head Coach of the Netherlands team who was nonchalant as always.
"Nice challenge," said Max. "Very happy to have the chance to play this game."
The Indians haven't won it since 1975 - but, the Dutch themselves have failed to get their hands on the World Cup trophy after they claimed their third title at home in 1998.
It is quite another matter that the Netherlands have come tantalizingly close to winning their fourth gold with a couple of bronze medals in 2002 and 2010, and a silver the last time around at the Hague - while the Indians have not even been within striking distance in the last 43 years.
Will Odisha 2018 be any different?
Previous editions of the Hockey World Cup were designed with a format wherein classification matches for the fifth to twelfth places preceded the semifinals and the same was true of the sixteen-nation event in 2002 as well.
The biggest moment since Rio 2016
As per FIH's new format which was followed at the Women's World Cup as well, the classification matches have been done away with, while the crossovers and quarterfinals have been introduced.
As such, India's entry into the quarterfinals cannot be used as a yardstick to make comparisons with previous World Cup editions - but the manner in which Harendra's boys have gone about their business has left no room for doubt that the hosts are indeed serious contenders for the trophy.
The Indians did, of course, make it to the quarterfinals of the Rio Olympics at 2016 where they lost to Belgium by a 1-3 margin after leading 1-0 at half-time, but the very fact that they did make it to the last-eight stage after 36 years was quite an achievement.
The Indians now have a chance of getting past the quarterfinal stage at the biggest global tournament since Rio 2016, if they do indeed manage to overcome a formidable Dutch unit.
The two sides last met at Breda on June 30 in their last round-robin match of the Champions Trophy with the Netherlands needing a win to enter the finals.
The Indians required just a draw to meet Australia in the summit clash, which they achieved thanks to a lone goal from Mandeep Singh in the opening minute of the final quarter and some exceptional goalkeeping by Sreejesh.
The Dutch, however, felt they were hard done by, as Jeroen Hertzberger's goal at the death was disallowed after Thierry Brinkman had scored the equalizer with just over five minutes left on the clock.
The head-to-head numbers preceding the Champions Trophy are loaded in favour of the Dutch no doubt but recent performances have proven beyond doubt that Harendra's boys are a class above their predecessors.
So, what are India's chances of making it to a historic semifinal - and what must the Indians be wary of?
Sportskeeda consulted two gentlemen who know a thing or two about the great Dutch teams of the past - and are following every moment of the action at Bhubaneswar.
Former India goalkeeper Ashish Ballal feels the Indian youngsters need to use their speed to outrun the Dutch defenders.
"The competition just starts with the quarterfinals''
"Should be a test of fitness and speed against structure and finishing prowess inside the circle."
"The Indians needs to make good every circle penetration and convert the chances they get while playing a tight defensive game. We should use the speed of the youngsters to outrun the defenders of the Dutch."
The land which has produced the very best penalty-corner specialists in the world like Ties Kruize, Paul Litjens, Floris Jan Bovelander, and Taeke Takema now have Mink van der Weeden who has yet to come into his own at Bhubaneswar, but Ashish feels PCs will be vital for both sides.
"PCs will be a factor - and a very decisive factor against the Dutch."
"The competition just starts with the quarterfinals and you will see a lot of new variations and strategies from game to game."
"Reading of the game should be exceptional"
Former India captain Jude Felix refuses to read too much into India's emphatic 5-1 win over Canada and opines that the Indians will have to be at their absolute best to beat the Dutch.
"Remember you only played Canada. While you don’t want to take the shine off the 5-1 excellent win, the matches ahead will be the real test from the coaches perspective.
"India has to play out of their skins to beat the Dutch. At least 7 to 8 of them have to play above 5 - with 10 being the best. Reading of the game should be exceptional in attack but a lot more when defending."
Sander de Wijn who left the field in the crossover against Canada, following an injury, will be unable to continue at Bhubaneswar and will be replaced by Joep de Mol.
India's last win against the Dutch, in a major tournament, was in 2015, in a Hockey World League encounter.
Post the triumph at Raipur, India lost to the Netherlands in the 2016 Olympics by a 1-2 margin and also went down 1-3 to the Dutch in a Hockey World League Semifinal encounter at London last year.
The Indians did, however, get the better of the Dutch in their own backward as part of a European tour last year, and will take heart from a brave show at the Champions Trophy.
While the performance at Breda has been encouraging no doubt, the pressure of a World Cup quarterfinal in the midst of 15,000 screaming fans may be an altogether ball-game, and the Indians will be hoping to prove to themselves, and to the world, that they can handle the pressure of knockouts just as well as any other side.
Check out the 2018 Hockey World Cup schedule for the upcoming matches here.Published 12 Dec 2018, 15:00 IST