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Hockey junior World Cup: India confident of beating Belgium and make history

India will face Belgium in the final of Hockey Junior World Cup on Sunday. India will end a 15-year wait if they can win the crown

other sports Updated: Dec 18, 2016 16:27 IST
Sharad Deep
India vs Belgium
Indian hockey team will face Belgium in the final of Hockey Junior World Cup on Sunday.(PTI)

It’s a make-or-break day for Harjeet Singh and his boys in the hockey Junior Hockey World Cup, the tournament that has produced many stars. A lot of them have gone on to become Olympic and world champions, such as Lucas Villa and Pedro Ibarra — the stars of Argentina’s Junior World Cup-winning team in 2005 —who helped their country win the Olympic gold at Rio de Janeiro this year.

Harjeet and his boys now have the chance of scripting history for India when they take on Belgium in the final on Sunday. India last won the hockey Junior World Cup in 2001, their only title at this stage and also their most recent triumph in FIH-level competitions. A win on Sunday will also put them on course for success at the senior level.

Keeping it simple

To succeed, they need to continue with their plan of simple hockey, avoid conceding early goals and maintain the physical and mental tempo throughout the match.

Coach Harendra Singh advocated the same for the final. “Now, it’s in the hands of the boys to decide the colour of the medal they want to take home. They have to play good hockey for just 70 minutes and the gold will be theirs. This is what I have told them,” he said.

Senior team coach Roelant Oltmans, who is acting as manager of the junior side here, too believes the boys must play their best game on Sunday. “It’s time for the perfect game and that we are going to show on Sunday. Our players will bring their best hockey in the most important match of the competition,” said Oltmans.

It would be the biggest opportunity for Indian colts to stamp their supremacy on world stage once again as they had done in 2001 at Hobart after finishing runners-up in Milton Keynes in 1997.

Full house expected

A full house is expected on Sunday as all tickets are sold out and fans don’t want to miss the moment. “I haven’t seen such frenzy for the game of hockey in India and that too for junior hockey in the last many years,” organising secretary RP Singh told HT, adding, “It’s good that the game is being followed like cricket in India.”

“Crowd support is great help in lifting our morale and we will put our best foot forward on Sunday,” Harjeet said. “Certainly, we would be looking for gold as it is the best opportunity,” he added.

Belgium no pushovers

Belgium appear to be a challenging side. After finishing 12th in their maiden appearance in the Junior World Cup in 1997, they managed to finish sixth at the last edition in New Delhi in 2013, while India had a 10th-place finish.

In both their knockout matches, Belgium found the going tough, registering wins in shootouts against Argentina in quarterfinals and Germany in the semifinal. But they have so far played composite hockey, going for early control. Their defence did great in the match against six-time champions Germany.