The tactician also spoke about facing the hosts in their own backyard.

Spain, who have participated in every Hockey World Cup since the first edition, arrive in Odisha with a young and confident squad. Captain Alvaro Iglesias and coach Maximiliano Caldas will look to inspire the current World No, 8s to a historic result. Despite making 14 World Cup appearances, Spain have participated in just two finals and finished as runners-up on both occasions. Both the Spanish captain and coach addressed the media ahead of Spain’s Pool D opening fixture against hosts India. 

Difference between Bhubaneshwar and Rourkela

With the previous World Cup also held at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar, India became the first country to host the Hockey World Cup back-to-back. In 2023, the tournament takes place both in Bhubaneswar and the newly-built Birsa Munda International Hockey Stadium in Rourkela.

Coach Maximiliano Caldas spoke of adjusting to a new location, “While we haven’t had the chance to explore Rourkela, we walked around and explored Bhubaneswar. It’s a great stadium, it’s different. We are enjoying the location and getting ready to play the game.” 

Feeling the atmosphere

After having a chance to soak in the sight of the enormous stadium and getting a feel of the surface after training, Spain captain Iglesias said, “We’ve been here in Odisha lot of times already. We came two or three times last year. We are used to the people, the crowd from two months ago. We’re looking forward to the first game and hoping to do well.” 

Confidence from the Pro-League fixtures

Spain played fellow group members India twice in the 2022-23 FIH Men’s Pro League, beating the hosts 3-2 and losing the second one on penalties. The Red Sticks were exposed to the conditions and coach Maximiliano Caldas said, “It’s difficult to tell how much influence it has or does not have. I think it gives us enough confidence to compete against these teams.

“For most of us, it’s the first World Cup. That can be a different feeling and we are confident in ourselves. We are not over-confident, just ready to compete. We trust and believe in what we do and sometimes winning or losing is a question of luck. It’s going to be a great match and I’m going to thoroughly enjoy it. 

“90% of the time we are going to focus on ourselves and the way we want to play. We want to be more thorough with our game plan. In the 10%, we tweak and adjust things to how the other teams setup.” 

Recovering from the 2018 debacle

Spain slumped to their worst ever finish in World Cup history, ending up bottom of the table with just two points and finishing behind Argentina, France and New Zealand. They scored just six goals all tournament. On mounting a recovery this time around, Coach Caldas said, “I was not there in 2018. This is the first World Cup for me with Spain. I wouldn’t know what to tell you. We are trying to develop our own game.” 

Fan support: A boon or a bane for India?

The Birsa Munda Stadium is already sold out for all of India’s fixtures, and 20,000 fans will flock to watch their heroes in action. Maximiliano Caldes said, “I have no idea, you’ll have to ask Graham that.”

Young side and if they can handle the pressure

Caldes has fielded a young unit, considering that they can start from scratch and have nothing to lose. When asked If this can be counter-productive, the coach answered, “The fact that it is the first World Cup for 90% of the group, we are looking forward to enjoy ourselves. I believe in my players, I am a big fan of my own players and I will look forward to see them play. I want to enjoy both sides of the story.”

How do you plan to keep the Indian crowd quiet? 

Talking about how to handle the crowd, the former assistant coach of the Dutch women’s team, Caldes said that it is a double-edged sword. He added that the best way to handle the pressure is by controlling the game. When the players are playing well, it’s easy to control the crowd. The team will focus on enjoying the game. “We can’t control the crowd but we choose to enjoy it. When your game is going well, it’s much more easy to control the crowd,” he added.

What are the challenges of leading a young squad?

Alvaro, who is the senior-most member of the squad, agrees that he is surprised by the quality, professionalism and agility of the players. He mentioned that despite their young age, they have performed very well in the FIH Pro League. “You can say we have a disadvantage because of the age but I can say that there are many positives and we will enjoy the world cup as a team.”

How important were the two matches against India in the Pro League to gain experience and confidence to play in the World Cup?

It was a very good and evenly matched competition in the Pro League. “We came back from 2-0 to draw the match 2-2. But we had ⅔ penalty corners to make it 2-3. It was an exciting match but this is the World Cup. Although there are many players in the team who are playing for the first time in the World Cup, that doesn’t mean we are going to be afraid of the World Cup or them (India),” added a confident Alvaro. 

On playing in an untested Rourkela turf?

The turf has not changed a lot. The Spanish team has already played in the venue a couple of times. The only thing that has changed is the capacity of the stadium but Alvaro jests, ” We don’t understand (what they are saying) them so we would just pretend that they are supporting us.”

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