The Men in Blue will play New Zealand in the crossover game to have a chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals.
India finished second in the group stages of the 15th edition of the FIH Men’s Hockey World Cup 2023 after a win against Wales. This means India will face New Zealand in the second Crossover match to be held on January 22 at Bhubaneswar.
The hosts will be looking to beat New Zealand to end their 47-year-old World Cup drought this year after their upturn in performance in the past 18 months.
So, let us look at the possible opponents India might face in the coming knockout stages of the tournament.
India plays New Zealand in the crossover. And the winner of the game will play in the quarter-final against the team that topped Pool B i.e. Belgium.
The defending champions of the Men’s Hockey World Cup, Belgium will be keen to keep their title intact. And one of the hurdles in their path will be India if the Men in Blue qualify for the quarter-final. Belgium’s hockey team is an experienced side, full of goalscorers. And the Red Devils have warmed up well for the quarter-final clash with a dominant win over Japan.
India have recently played Belgium in very high-scoring affairs and hence, the performance of the defence would be key for Harmanpreet Singh and co. in the quarter-final.
If India manage to go past the challenge of Belgium, they will play one of Argentina, South Korea or Netherlands in the semi-final. Argentina and South Korea are playing in the fourth crossover game and the winner of the two will play Netherlands in the quarter-finals for a place in the semi-finals of the Hockey World Cup.
The most unlikely of the three teams to reach the semi-finals, South Korea are nevertheless a rising force to reckon upon in Asian tournaments. However, asking them to beat both Netherlands and Argentina may be asking too much. The Koreans are known for their attacking style of play. But they do leave big gaps behind which India may look to exploit if they meet in the semis.
Argentina are without the services of the two of their stars who have decided to shift bases this edition. However, the South Americans are still one of the forces to reckon on in the world of hockey. Even though India has recently done relatively well against Argentina, a semi-final tie against them could be wide-open given the similarities in the style of play of the two sides.
Scoring 14 goals against Chile in this World Cup, Netherlands recorded the biggest win by any team in a Hockey World Cup game. They went past Australia’s 12-0 win against South Africa during the 2010 edition. While the stat highlights the attacking prowess of Netherlands, one must not forget that the Dutch are yet to face a team that may be considered a contender for the title.
Games between India and Netherlands are often fun to watch, with goals coming even in the dying seconds. The Dutch have one of the best disciplinary records at the 15th edition of the quadrennial tournament.
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