Junior Hockey World Cup: Indian coach Graham Reid says the real test for the team begins tomorrow against Belgium

The Indian men's junior hockey team at the Junior World Cup in Bhubaneshwar. (PC: Hockey India)
The Indian men's junior hockey team at the Junior World Cup in Bhubaneshwar. (PC: Hockey India)
Hari Kishore M

It is time for the knock-outs at the FIH Men's Junior Hockey World Cup. The Indian men's junior hockey team will meet Belgium in their quarter-final match of the Men's Junior Hockey World Cup. It will be a rematch of the 2016 World Cup final where India beat Belgium to the title.

Indian hockey team chief coach Graham Reid, who is overseeing the Indian men's junior hockey team as a High Performance Director, said the Indian team must bring their best game against Belgium. Addressing the media, Reid cautioned Indian players against complacency. He said:

"I feel the team has been learning from each match they've played so far and have gotten better with each day. In the last two games, particularly, we have started doing what we aim to do. But the real test begins tomorrow against Belgium. One of our goals for tomorrow's match will be to have a good start. The boys are upbeat. Hopefully, all the nerves will have been washed away in the last couple of games. I am more focused on making sure we are tight in defense at every moment in the game."

Belgium have been unbeaten in the tournament so far, having won two games and drawn one in the group stages, and the Indian coach felt the team should take a cue from Malaysia. Malaysia produced a fine defensive display to hold Belgium 1-1 in the pool stages of the tournament.

"You also saw some vulnerability which the Malaysians exploited and we will look to do the same. The team that can come out and play their natural game will be the winners."

Indian hockey team striker Maninder ruled out of the World Cup

In what could be a big blow for the Indian men's junior hockey team, striker Maninder Singh has been ruled out of the World Cup with a hamstring injury. The versatile striker has been replaced by Bobby Singh in the squad.

Maninder has been a live-wire in the field and has been one of India's key performers in the tournament so far. He was instrumental in setting up goals for the forwardline.

Read: FIH Odisha Hockey Men's Junior World Cup 2021: Quarterfinals schedule, timings [IST], live streaming details

Reid said injuries are part and parcel of elite sport and added that it was disappointing to see a dream cut short. He said:

"Unfortunately, we had been forced to make this decision. Maninder has been replaced by Bobby Singh. It's always disappointing when someone's dream is shattered like that. Unfortunately, that's what elite sport is."

Reid said penalty corners may prove to be a crucial factor that may determine the result against Belgium. With three quality drag-flickers - Sanjay Kumar, Araijeet Singh Hundal and Shardanand Tiwari - in the Indian team, the penalty corner opportunities must be converted with ease.

"We have been spending a fair bit of time practicing penalty corner attack and defense as it may decide the match for both teams. We have been studying what Belgium are doing in the past couple of days. What is becoming prominent is that we have quality drag-flickers coming through, which is a nice thing."

Belgium hockey team head coach Jeroen Baart said that both India and Belgium have a complimentary style of play.

"Our style of play is very complimentary to India. India like to counter-attack using their speed and vertical play. They do it really well. We are focused on our defensive end and on controlling the ball to create opportunities."

Baart said he expects the Indian hockey team to be aggressive and come all-out against them.

"It's going to be a fantastic match-up. We expect a lot of attacking and aggression from the Indian team. We need to have the right structure and the right intensity at the right moment. The best team will go through."

Also read: Junior Hockey World Cup: Has India found Rupinder Pal’s replacement in Sanjay?

Edited by Rohit Mishra
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