Match Preview : Semifinal - Ranchi Rhinos v/s UP Wizards
Venue: Astroturf Hockey Stadium, Ranchi(Capacity – 5,000)
Date: 9th February
Time: 5:00 PM
Broadcast: ESPN (English Commentary) and Star Cricket (Hindi Commentary)
The Ranchi Rhinos take on the UP Wizards in the first semi-final of the inaugural Hockey India League in front of their home crowd in Ranchi. The tournament, which has been a big success, is now into it’s last and most crucial leg. Ranchi will have the advantage of playing in front of their home fans, who have been brilliant throughout and at their vocal best at each of their home-matches. The Rhinos will start as favourites, but they will have to be wary of a resurgent UP side, one which made the mighty Delhi side look like a bunch of amateurs in their previous match. What will be interesting to note is that both teams have a strong defence and midfield, but a relatively inexperienced forward line. The winner of the match will take on either Delhi or Punjab in the finals.
Players to look out for :
Ranchi – Birendra Lakra and Moritz Furste : Both Lakra and Furste have been the driving forces of the Ranchi midfield, and have produced a number of stellar displays so far. Young Lakra has received a lot of rave reviews about his performances, and some of his foreign team-mates have said that he has the potential to be among the best in the world. Furste, the German Olympic gold-medallist, has enthralled everybody with his wonderful stickwork and vision of passing. Both of them will be vital to Ranchi’s chances of reaching the final. Striker Floris Evers has had a tournament to forget, but might just be the difference between the two teams if gets his scoring boots on. Drag-flicker Ashley Jackson will also be hoping to add to his tally, and young forward Mandeep Singh, who has been the top scorer for the Rhinos this season, is more than capable of contributing with important goals, as he has done throughout the event.
UP – VR Raghunath and Jeroen Hertzberger : Raghunath has slowly grown to become India’s best defender and drag-flick taker. In the HIL too, he has lead his side from the front and is also the leading scorer for them. He, along with Luke Doerner and Walter Joulie provide UP with one of the strongest defences on paper, although results haven’t backed them as yet. Striker Hertzberger, who started the tournament sloppily, has slowly found his touch, and scored a brilliant solo goal against Delhi in his previous match, one which was reminiscent of his potential as a player. Midfielders David Alegre and Teun De Noijer have had a quiet tournament, and have not exerted themselves as much as they would have liked, and UP will be hoping they are on top of their games for this all-important semi-final match.
Form Guide :
Ranchi : DLDWW
UP : LWLWW
Ranchi : Gregg Clark(South Africa)
UP : Roelant Oltmans(Netherlands)
Score Prediction : Ranchi are the favourites, although UP showed in the last match that they are more than capable of toppling any team. It should be a tight match, although I think Ranchi might scrape through. 3-2 in favour of Ranchi.