The coach of the Men in Blue, Graham Reid, also touched upon a few important points before the tournament opener against Spain.

India takes on Spain on 13 January at the newly built Birsa Munda International stadium in Rourkela. India finished sixth in the 2018 Men’s Hockey World Cup, losing to the Netherlands in the quarterfinals. This will be the fourth time India will be hosting the mega event and the second consecutive time in Odisha, India. Both teams recently played in the Men’s Hockey Pro League held in Bhubaneshwar. The pre-match press conference was attended by head coach Graham Reid and captain Harmanpreet Singh.

Feeling before World Cup

India will play Spain in the opening encounter on 13 January at the Birsa Munda International hockey stadium in Rourkela, India. India will be hosting the World Cup second consecutive time and will be tournament favourites.

The head coach Graham Reid was amazed by the facilities and mentioned, “The facilities here are quite remarkable and the stadium looks world-class. We came here on 27 December and have been training and living in the World Cup village. We are happy with the pitch and the guys are pretty much getting used to it. The pitch in Bhubaneshwar and Rourkela is similar with not much difference. This will be Sreejesh’s third World Cup at home and personally for me the sixth or seventh one.”

Harmanpreet Singh iterated on the same point, “This is one of the best stadiums I have seen in my entire career. We are lucky to have the World Cup in India so we are getting used to the conditions pretty quickly. Most of our matches are in the evening and initially when we landed here the temperature was hot but slowly the temperature got colder. We have trained in both the morning and evening sessions to get used to the conditions.”

No. 1 drag-flicker for India at World Cup

Harmanpreet Singh will be leading India for the first time at a mega event. Apart from Harmanpreet Singh India does not possess enough depth in the penalty corner section which is a cause of concern going into the World Cup.

Indian captain looked confident and said, ”To be honest, hockey is a team game and all the players have to contribute equally. As a captain, I have to look after the team and see everything goes right without much confusion. The team has four quality drag flickers all having different variations so we need to use them properly.”

Strategy playing against Spain

India has played Spain twice recently during the men’s Pro League held in Bhubaneshwar, India. Both teams shared equal success winning and losing a game each.

Harmanpreet Singh quipped, “We have played well against Spain in the Pro League before. The only aim is to continue playing with the structure and the plan we have and on the other hand, we have analyzed our opponents by looking at their strengths and weakness. The plan is to read the game well and play according to the situation.”

Crowd Factor

The 2023 edition will be played across two venues (Kalinga stadium and Birsa Munda stadium) and the tickets for all Indian matches have been sold out. 

Graham Reid acknowledged, “Having crowd support is a dual edge sword and pressure for me is staying in the moment. Sometimes pressure can get the best out of the players and at the same time should not go over the top.”

Harmanpreet Singh iterated on the same point and said, “This will be an important World Cup for us playing in front of home support. World Cup happens once in four years and we do not know when the mega event will be played next time in India. This is a good opportunity for us as we have been playing well for the past year and the team has the right mix of youth and experience.”

Any advantage playing against Spain

The majority of the players in the Spain squad have played less than 100 matches and relatively possess a young and inexperienced team. Whereas, the Indian side is the third most experienced side of the tournament when you compare the number of international caps for all players combined.

Graham Reid didn’t believe in the notion that playing against youth would mean India having any advantage. The former Kookaburras manager explained, “Beware of youth as they have got nothing to lose and will play with full freedom. Experience is sometimes overrated in big tournaments so we need to play well overall.”

Any changes from playing the previous edition to the current edition of the World Cup

India finished sixth in the 2018 Men’s World Cup after losing to the Netherlands in the quarterfinals (1-2). Harmanpreet Singh believes the team, consulting with coach Graham Reid has worked on the issues of the past.

The captain opined “When we lost the quarterfinal in 2018, we discussed what went wrong and there were only small things which had gone wrong changing the complexity of the match. This time we have learnt from our mistakes and the coach always says to counter-control whether we have the ball or not.”

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