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Hockey World League Final: Skipper Manpreet backs India to match major rivals

India are in a tough group at the Hockey World League Final that includes world champions Australia in the elite tournament to be played in Bhubaneswar.

other sports Updated: Nov 26, 2017 18:32 IST
B Shrikant
B Shrikant
Mumbai
Hockey World League Final,Manpreet Singh,Indian hockey team
Manpreet Singh, Indian hockey team captain, is confident of good show at the Hockey World League Final.(PTI)

The continent was conquered in Dhaka last month and now the Indian hockey team will be hoping to emulate that success at the Hockey World League Final in Bhubaneswar. India had bagged a bronze medal in the HWL Final 2015 at Raipur and retaining it would be a great achievement and boost ahead of a hectic 2018 which has Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and the World Cup.

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Skipper Manpreet Singh will have to bear the burden of expectations but is undaunted by the huge task. He says his boys are ready for the upcoming challenges starting with the Hockey World League Final (from December 1) where India (Pool B) face strong opponents Australia, Germany and England in the preliminary league.

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“No matter who we are playing, we have to give our best. That was our motto during the Asia Cup win and it will be the same at Bhubaneswar. The Hockey World League is a very strong and prestigious tournament and we want to give it our best shot,” Manpreet told Hindustan Times in an interview.

India will open their campaign against world No 2 Australia — against whom they have had limited success in recent times. India have lost to the Kookaburras in the Champions Trophy, Azlan Shah and Commonwealth Games in the last few years. But Manpreet denied there was a psychological barrier when it came to facing the world champions.

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“It is not that we have developed a mental block against Australia or feel extra pressure. Agreed, we have not beaten them in many matches in the recent past, but in the Champions Trophy final (2016) we held them goalless, and that too without seniors like Sardar Singh and Rupinderpal (Singh), though we lost in the shoot-out,” said Manpreet, who is supported by Red Bull.

“We know we have to avail whatever chances that come our way and allow as few chances as possible to the opponents. That’s our plan when we play teams like Germany, Holland or Australia.”

Indian forwards have been profligate at times, but Manpreet defended them. “The forwardline has done well in the Asia Cup and before that during the Europe tour. In the Asia Cup, all our forwards scored. Forwards in other teams too miss chances — it is not that only our guys make mistakes.”

First Published: Nov 26, 2017 18:07 IST