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Hockey World Cup: Eyeing direct into quarters, India vary of Canada threat

India are currently top of Pool C with four points from two matches at the 2018 Hockey World cup.

other sports Updated: Dec 07, 2018 21:10 IST
Sandip Sikdar
Sandip Sikdar
Hindustan Times, Bhubaneshwar
Hockey World Cup,World Cup hockey,HWC2018
India have won one and drawn one match at the Hockey World Cup so far. (PTI)

Only two players were seen in India’s final training session ahead of their World Cup clash against Canada. India goalkeeper PR Sreejesh and reserve Krishan Pathak spent more than an hour with former India custodian and current coach Bharat Chetri on the practice pitch of Kalinga Stadium.

Understandably, Sreejesh had turned down requests to talk to the media. He had just about returned from his home a few hours ago where his father was batting for life. The 30-year-old made his to-and-fro two-day trip from Kochi to attend to his father who underwent a heart surgery recently.

But on the eve of their final Pool C clash, the custodian looked resolute. From the stands it could be made out that he was practicing most on his reflexes, asking Chetri to make him reach wide. His intensity showed that he wants to make a point despite the personal stress.

“His mood is as normal as it was earlier. It is part and parcel of life. We allowed him to go for a day. His father is alright. He is still in the hospital but not in ICU. He is out of danger,” said India chief coach Harendra Singh.

Sreejesh will be key against Canada, who defeated India the last time the two teams met in the Hockey World League (HWL) Semi-Finals in London last year.

Though ranked six rungs below India at No.11, Canada have a history of being troublemakers. They have now and then upset top teams and that is exactly what they would aim to do come Saturday.

“Tomorrow’s game is going to be very competitive. If we stick to our game plan, we are hard to break. We are very opportunistic and have a very good penalty corner unit. We have strikers who are very dangerous which creates a little doubt among higher ranked teams because they have seen us upset top teams,” said Canada coach Paul Bundy.

The Manpreet Singh-led side need to win to ensure a direct entry into the quarterfinals as world No.3 Belgium will also be vying for the same when they take on South Africa ahead of India’s clash. However, the advantage the hosts have is that they have a better goal advantage and are playing the last Pool C game.

“We want to top the pool and so does Belgium. The positive thing is we know what’s our target,” said Harendra.

Though unbeaten in the tournament and still topping Pool C after a thumping 5-0 win against South Africa and 2-2 draw against Belgium, India still have gaps to fill, especially in the forward line which has had quite a few lapses.

“We are focussed in scoring more goals. We are deeply looking into reducing our lapses and increasing our circle penetrations by analysing and watching our videos,” said Simranjeet Singh, who has scored three goals so far for India.

Canada, on the other hand, will be eager for their first win after losing 1-2 to Belgium and drawing 1-1 against South Africa. Though a direct quarterfinal entry looks unlikely, the North American team will look to enter the crossovers.

“India are a good team. They have been playing well and got a good draw against Belgium. They are fitter and faster than I can remember,” added Bundy, who along with his team took a three-day break to spend time in Puri.

First Published: Dec 07, 2018 21:10 IST