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Manpreet to lead Indian hockey team at CWG, no place for Sardar

New Delhi, March 13: Ace midfielder Manpreet Singh is set to lead the Indian mens hockey team at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, starting April 4, while the experienced former captain Sardar Singh has been left out of the 18-member squad, announced by Hockey India on Tuesday.

The Indian team is grouped in Pool B along with Pakistan, Malaysia, Wales, England and will begin their campaign on April 7 against Pakistan.

Midfielder Chinglensana Singh Kangujam will be the vice-captain of the team.

It was under Manpreet’s leadership that the Indian team lifted the Asia Cup in 2017 followed by a bronze medal at the Hockey World League Final in Bhubaneswar last year.

Freeman and drag-flick expert Rupinder Pal Singh will form India’s wall of defence along with Harmanpreet Singh, Varun Kumar, Kothajit Singh, Gurinder Singh and Amit Rohidas, while the goalpost will be guarded by India’s experienced goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh who made a strong comeback into the team during the New Zealand Tour where he displayed some exceptional goalkeeping abilities.

He will be backed by the 22-year-old Suraj Karkera who played a crucial part in the team’s good show in Bhubaneswar last year in his senior counterpart’s absence.

India’s midfield will see skipper Manpreet in the lead role, ably supported by the experience of Chinglensana along with young blood in Sumit and Vivek Sagar Prasad.

The Indian attack will feature a combination between experience and youth as S.V. Sunil, Akashdeep Singh, Mandeep Singh, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay, Gurjant Singh and Dilpreet Singh are all in the team.

Dilpreet Singh and Vivek Sagar Prasad who made their international debut during the New Zealand tour have been rewarded with this opportunity for a good show where the duo scored in important games.

Sardar’s exclusion comes on the heels of India finishing fifth under his leadership at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup tournament. However a few eyebrows have been raised with Ramandeep Singh being dropped despite his decent show in the same tournament.

“This team has been picked keeping in mind the team’s performance in the previous tournaments since the Asia Cup 2017. We have tried out different combinations in the past events and we believe this will be the most effective combination for the Gold Coast 2018 XXI Commonwealth Games,” asserted Chief Coach Sjoerd Marijne.

He stated that the team has a winning mindset and will look to aim for the best in the quadrennial event.

“This team has been improving with every match and while we could not produce a podium finish at the 27th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup 2018, it will have no influence on how we are going to play in Australia and we will be going there with a mindset to win,” said the 43-year-old Dutch coach.

In the previous two outings at the Commonwealth Games, India has finished second behind Australia.

Skipper Manpreet Singh, however, is confident of turning the tables this time.

“Our first aim is to do well in the group stage because we have some strong teams in our Pool. It’s extremely crucial to top our table and make the Semis but if we do meet Australia in the knockouts, I believe we will be up for a strong challenge,” the 25-year-old Manpreet said.

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Sreejesh Parattu Raveendran, Suraj Karkera.
Defenders: Rupinder Pal Singh, Harmanpreet Singh, Varun Kumar, Kothajit Singh Kadangbam, Gurinder Singh, Amit Rohidas.

Midfielders: Manpreet Singh (Captain), Chinglensana Singh Kangujam (VC), Sumit, Vivek Sagar Prasad.

Forwards: Akashdeep Singh, Sunil Sowmarpet Vitalacharya.

Indian Hockey Squad Trains At Bhubaneswar Ahead Of HWL Final

Bhubaneswar, Nov 23 (IANS) India had their first training session on Thursday morning at the Kalinga Stadium here after arriving in the city on Wednesday for the Men’s Hockey World League (HWL) Final.

The team went through the paces under the watchful eyes of chief coach Sjoerd Marijne as it started its preparations for the eight-nation tournament, starting on December 1.

The 43-year-old Dutch coach emphasised on speed and tactical training as the 18-member squad played a short 30-minute half-court match against each other.

“Our first practice session went well. It is good to be at the Kalinga Stadium. While it is my first time here, for the players it is like home because all of them have played many Hockey India League Matches here. The pitch is fast so we like it,” Marijne expressed after the 90-minute training session.

The mega event will see top teams in the world battle for supremacy. Defending champions Australia will meet India in their first Pool B match while England will take on Germany.

The Pool B comprises Belgium, Argentina, The Netherlands and Spain.

In the next one week, Marijne wants to build the intensity during the training sessions. “The focus is to get the intensity higher and higher for our conditioning as we approach match day.

“Our preparations have been really good with the 18-day national camp in Bengaluru but there is scope to get our level higher ahead of the tournament. We play short matches among ourselves so we keep the guys in match momentum,” stated Marijne.

The team will play practice matches against Olympic gold medallists Argentina on November 27 and England on November 28 respectively.

“For me the most important thing is performance. Rupinder and Biru (Birendra Lakra) who are making a comeback also get an extra match before going into our first game against Australia. While I am happy with how the players have done in training, playing matches is always good. 

“It doesn’t matter that England are grouped with us. Playing practice match against any team is welcome and also both teams follow each other closely so there are not many secrets between each other,” he remarked.

Hero Hockey Asia Cup 2017, India, Asian Champions, Beat, Malayasia, Manpreet Singh, Aakash Deep
Indian hockey team celebrates in India before lifting the third Asia Cup title. Photo Credit: Web.

Indian Hockey Team Gears Up Preparations For HWL Final

New Delhi, Nov 4 (IANS) After stamping their supremacy in the continent by winning the prestigious Asia Cup 2017, the Indian men’s team will regroup at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) Bengaluru for an 18-day national camp ahead of the all-important Hockey World League Final in Bhubaneswar, starting December 1.

The 35-member core group that includes the 18-member Asia Cup squad as well as players who were part of the India ‘A’ team that participated in the Australian Hockey League will be put to test starting November 5 in order to select the final team for the season finale in Odisha.

While there is no change in the core group which includes the likes of Manpreet Singh, S.V. Sunil, Sardar Singh, Harmanpreet Singh, Chinglensana Singh, Gurjant Singh, Ramandeep Singh, S.K. Uthappa, Harjeet Singh, Dipsan Tirkey, Akashdeep Singh, Varun Kumar, Armaan Qureshi, Affan Yousuf among others, goalkeepers Akash Chikte and Suraj Karkera will be joined by Vikas Dahiya and celebrated custodian P.R. Sreejesh, who is working on making a comeback after a long haul due to injury.

Dragflick specialist Rupinder Pal Singh, fullbacks Birender Lakra and Kothajit Singh too will be available for selection after injury lay-off while forward Mandeep Singh is back in the camp after being rested for the Asia Cup.

“It is not only the players making a come back after recovering from an injury who will have to prove their mettle but every single player will have to strive to make his position in the team for the Hockey World League Final in Bhubaneswar 2017. The standards are high to be selected in the team and that’s good because it makes players better,” chief coach Sjoerd Marijne said in a statement.

Not reading too much into the Asia Cup triumph, Marijne was modest to admit that the team needs to improve a lot more to achieve the desired results at the December event.

“Together we have to become more consistent. We have a tendency of dropping our level too low in a match where the opponent ends up coming back into the game. If we make too many technical errors the level drops and that’s one of the things we have to improve and focus upon during this camp,” he said.

Emphasising on room for improvement, the Dutchman was also quick to draw positives from his team’s abilities on the pitch.

“The team brings a lot of energy into matches. Our speed and fitness are strong points and if we combine this in a good way with our technical skills then we can be quite lethal,” he stated.

National Campers:

Goalkeepers: Akash Chikte, P.R. Sreejesh, Vikas Dahiya, Suraj Karkera;

Defenders: Dipsan Tirkey, Pardeep Mor, Birendra Lakra, Kothajit Singh, Surender Kumar, Rupinder Pal Singh, Harmanpreet Singh, Jasjit Singh Kular, Gurinder Singh, Amit Rohidas, Varun Kumar;

Midfielders: Chinglensana Singh, S.K. Uthappa, Sumit, Satbir Singh, Sardar Singh, Manpreet Singh, Harjeet Singh, Nilakanta Sharma, Manpreet (Junior), Simranjeet Singh;

Forwards: Ramandeep Singh, S.V. Sunil, Talwinder Singh, Mandeep Singh, Affan Yousuf, Nikkin Thimmaiah, Gurjant Singh, Akashdeep Singh, Lalit Upadhyay, Armaan Qureshi.

Image Source: Twitter

Hockey: India Beat Malaysia To Win Asia Cup For 3rd Time

Dhaka, Oct 22 (IANS) India underlined their continental supremacy as they overcame a fighting Malaysia 2-1 in the final here on Sunday to win the Asia Cup hockey championship for the third time.

Ramandeep Singh (3rd minute) and Lalit Upadhyay (29th) scored for the 2014 Asian Games gold medallists India. Shahril Saabah (50th minute) scored the reducer for Malaysia, forcing India to defend their territory for the nervous late moments of the game.

India’s previous two titles came in 2003 and 2007.

Hockey: India Beat Malaysia To Win Asia Cup For 3rd Time 1
Image Source: Twitter

The five-time runners-up seemed determined against Malaysia, who reached the Asia Cup final for the first time.

India got off to a dream start when S.K. Uthappa made a long pass from the left. At the left post, an unmarked Ramandeep tapped the ball on to the bar. When it rebounded, he didn’t miss to give India an early advantage.

The pace of Indian forwards created troubles for the Malaysians, who were pegged back in their half. Malaysia responded by winning a penalty corner in the 13th minute but Indian goalkeeper Suraj Kerkera was alert.

India pressed high and earned two penalty corners in the 19th and 26th minutes but the flicks from Harmanpreet Singh couldn’t trouble Malaysian custodian Kumar Subramaniam and the defenders.

Hockey: India Beat Malaysia To Win Asia Cup For 3rd Time 2
Image Source: Twitter

However, the intense play helped India win a second goal as a Gurjant Singh cross from the left was deflected home by Lalit.

A handsome 2-0 lead at half-time triggered social media speculation that the Indian team, coached by Sjoerd Marijne, would again thrash Malaysia like in an earlier game.

India, Asia’s top-ranked side, controlled the game in the third and penultimate quarter, creating many chances to extend their domination. In the 34th minute, India could have made it 3-0 but Gurjant, fed by a pacy Ramandeep, was denied by a diving Subramaniam.

India got further chances to extend the scoreline. Lalit hit wide in the 40th minute while Ramandeep failed to connect a cross from the right the next minute.

A stunned Malaysia began foraying into the Indian defence in the fourth quarter.

A defensive lapse from Sardar Singh let Shahril drive past Indian keeper Suraj in the 50th minute to reduce the margin — and to open up the contest.

A desperate Malaysia employed long balls to Indian box and suddenly the Indians came under pressure. They conceded two penalty corners but Razie Rahim’s flicks were not good enough.

India survived some anxious moments towards the close but they held on to the 2-1 scoreline before celebrations erupted in their camp at the Maulana Bhasani Hockey Stadium.

 

Image Source: Twitter

India Rout Pakistan 4-0 To Enter Asia Cup Hockey Final

Dhaka, Oct 21 (IANS) India entered the final of the Asia Cup hockey championship after a thumping 4-0 win over arch-foes Pakistan in their final second-round clash here on Saturday.

After the teams were deadlocked goalless at the half-time, India ran rampage with goals from Satbir Singh (39th minute), Harmanpreet Singh (51st) Lalit Upadhyay (52nd) and Gurjant Singh (57th).

India Rout Pakistan 4-0 To Enter Asia Cup Hockey Final 3
Image Source: Twitter

India now have seven points from three games, while Pakistan are eliminated as they have one point.

Second-placed Malaysia (three points) and third-placed South Korea (two points) will vie for the other final spot.

Coming into the match against Pakistan, India, despite having four points, were not guaranteed of a place in the final.

Pakistan, who had lost 1-3 to India during the pool phase, were expected to put up a stiff fight. They did show thet hunger with a strong start against India by earning three penalty corners inside the first quarter.

India Rout Pakistan 4-0 To Enter Asia Cup Hockey Final 4
Image Source: Google

Pakistan kept their defensive shape well as they did not allow India to have spaces in behind their defence which meant that the latter struggled to attack.

But India also won a penalty corner in the 14th minute which was scuffed by drag-flicker Harmanpreet Singh.

The tempo of the match increased towards the end of the first quarter but the second quarter saw both the teams battle it out in the midfield.

It was India who got the first chance to take the lead in the 24th minute through Ramandeep Singh but the Pakistani goalkeeper Amjad Ali deflected his shot to deny the Indians.

India, Asia’s highest ranked team, then turned on the heat in the latter part of the second quarter as they won a penalty corner in the 28th minute. However, the flick from Harmanpreet hit the crossbar as the teams ended the second quarter without a goal being scored.

The third quarter finally saw India penetrate Pakistan’s circle as their team-work led to a great goal in the 39th minute. Forward Satbir made a darting run on the right flank and passed the ball towards the Pakistan goal but the defenders failed to intercept it, conceding the goal.

India kept the possession well throughout the third quarter and dictated play as cracks began to open up in the defensive line of their arch rivals.

India had a glorious chance to extend their lead in the 45th minute when captain Manpreet Singh found Lalit free inside the circle but the latter could only hit a shot which was saved by goalkeeper Amjad as India kept their 1-0 lead after the third quarter.

India started the fourth quarter aggressively as Varun Kumar missed a chance to score when Gurjant Singh found him in the circle with a calculated pass in the 46th minute.

India won two successive penalty corners in the 48th and 49th minute, both of which were saved by Pakistan’s Amjad Ali with some heroic saves to deny the Indians.

Two minutes later, Harmanpreet converted a well-taken penalty corner to mark his seventh goal of the tournament.

India Rout Pakistan 4-0 To Enter Asia Cup Hockey Final 5
Image Source: Twitter

India didn’t relent and went for the third goal in the very next minute. Lalit finished off a brilliant team move with a fierce backhander in the 52nd minute to make it 3-0 in India’s favour.

Gurjant completed India’s big win in the 57th minute after sweeping home a right cross from Akashdeep Singh.

Image Source: Twitter

Gurjant’s Late Goal Earns India 1-1 Draw Against South Korea

Dhaka, Oct 18 (IANS) Forward Gurjant Singh’s late goal helped India to get a 1-1 draw against South Korea in a second round match of the Hero Asia Cup hockey championship here on Wednesday.

Jungjun Lee put the defending champions ahead in the 41st minute. India were staring at a defeat until Gurjant drove from a tight angle in a goal-melee in the 59th minute to secure a point.

Before that, India, the highest-ranked team in the tournament, had plenty of opportunities but the scoring touch was missing.

India opened the game patiently, rotating the ball between themselves and waiting for an opening into the Korean defence.

Despite the several circle penetrations, it took till the 14th minute for the first real chance to materialise when India won the first penalty corner.

The opportunity went amiss though. Harmanpreet Singh attempted a variation set piece, but a flick to injector Ramandeep Singh was blocked.

Earlier, South Korea’s Mookyoung Lee made a brave attempt when he dribbled into India’s circle and made a diving effort to take a shot on goal. But he was wide off the mark.

After ending the first quarter in a stalemate, the South Korean defence continued to test the Indian forwards as they allowed little room for penetration.

The Indian defence stayed resolute in their circle to deny their feisty opponents a lead. The half-time score read 0-0.

Though India attacked constantly, getting closer each time towards a breakthrough, it didn’t help their cause as the South Koreans constantly intercepted their passes.

A close chance in the 40th minute saw Amit Rohidas assist Akashdeep Singh in the circle but the forward could not fashion a deflection.

One minute later, Jungjun fashioned a chance out of nothing, spinning away from his markers to unleash a shot on the goal; beating India goalkeeper Akash Chikte to the post and giving the South Koreans a 1-0 lead.

Down to the final quarter with time ticking away, India attacked in droves but South Korea stayed firm.

India removed their goalkeeper with less than four minutes to go. India appealed for a penalty corner in the 57th minute but the video umpired ruled otherwise.

But the following minute, a good counter by Sardar Singh saw the ball pass to Gurjant who won India their second penalty corner. But a video referral by South Korea denied India the chance.

As tension built up at the Moulana Bhashani Hockey Stadium, spectators were on their toes.

India held their nerve to come up with a brilliant attack that saw Akashdeep take a shot on goal. It bounced off only to find Gurjant close in on the goal and finish the job for India. The match ended in a 1-1 draw, with both teams splitting points.

Dutchman Sjoerd Marijne-coached India will take on Malaysia on Thursday.

Image Source; Twitter

Hockey: India Take On South Korea In Asia Cup (Preview)

Dhaka, Oct 17 (IANS) India will look to continue their winning run as they face defending champions South Korea in their first match of the second round in the Asia Cup hockey championship here on Wednesday.

After three successive wins in the pool stage, Sjoerd Marijne’s wards are prepared to begin their four-game round-robin stage (Super 4s) comprising four teams. Malaysia and Pakistan are the other teams in the second round.

South Korea are fighting a battle of their own with huge pressure on them for qualifying for the 2018 FIH World Cup.

India have registered convincing wins against Japan (5-1), Bangladesh (7-0) and Pakistan (3-1). Indian forwards S.V. Sunil, Akashdeep Singh and Ramandeep Singh are in good form and the midfielders such as S.K. Uthappa and Manpreet Singh are linking up with the defence and attack line smoothly.

Hockey: India Take On South Korea In Asia Cup (Preview) 6
Image Source: Google

Marijne has put centre-half Sardar in the backline to make up for the lack of experience among the defenders and the former captain has been performing his role as a free-moving player nicely.

“We got off to a good start in the tournament though I would have liked to see a better performance against Pakistan, it’s good to have won all the three matches,” Marijne said on Wednesday on the sidelines of the team’s training session.

“In the Super 4s too, we will have a similar approach which is to take one match at a time and right now the focus is on the match against Korea,” stated the Dutchman.

Hockey: India Take On South Korea In Asia Cup (Preview) 7
Sjoerd Marijne

South Korea suffered one loss against Malaysia but won against China and Oman to make the Super 4s. With a good penalty corner conversion rate and high quality counter attack, India need to be patient against them, cautioned Marijne.

“It will be an interesting match. We need to be patient and have good control. It’s important for us to focus on our own structure. They are good in counter and we need to be aware of that when we play against them,” he added.

The last time India played South Korea was in Kuantan, Malaysia during the Asian Champions Trophy in October 2016. The match boiled down to a penalty shoot-out after they drew 2-2 in regulation time in the semi-final. India then had gone on to beat Pakistan in the final.

But here, South Korea will be under pressure as they are the only team in the Super 4s who have not qualified for the World Cup in Bhubaneswar, India.

Image Source: Facebook

Hockey: India Thrash Bangladesh In Asia Cup

Dhaka, Oct 13 (IANS) India continued their dominating show at the Hero Asia Cup as they thrashed hosts Bangladesh 7-0 in their Pool A match at the Maulana Bhashani National Hockey Stadium here on Friday.

It was goals by Gurjant Singh (seventh minute), Akashdeep Singh (10th), Lalit Upadhyay (13th), Amit Rohidas (20th), Harmanpreet Singh (28th and 47th), Ramandeep Singh (46th) that ensured India were on top of the pool table.

At the start though, backed by a boisterous home crowd, Bangladesh looked determined as they began with a good attack but a clinical performance from the Indian team gave them little opportunity to bring some cheer to their supporters who had turned up in large numbers.

Hockey: India Thrash Bangladesh In Asia Cup 8
Image Source: Facebook

India were on a goal-fest right from the start. First it was Gurjant Singh who received a brilliant assist from Amit Rohidas on the right baseline which he simply had to nudge into the post to fetch India a 1-0 lead in the seventh minute.

Later, after having missed an open goal only seconds earlier, Akashdeep Singh was at ease when he worked a perfect pass from S.V. Sunil to put the ball past Bangladeshi goalkeeper Abu Nippon to double India’s lead in the 10th minute.

Three minutes later, Lalit Upadhyay struck his second goal of the tournament when he put one past Abu Nippon as India went into the first break with a comfortable 3-0 lead.

The Manpreet Singh-led Indian team continued to build on their dominating start with impressive speed, tactically passing the ball in the midfield and worked some effortless moves to penetrate Bangladesh’s circle.

A breakthrough came in the 20th minute when Gurjant Singh swiftly dribbled into the left flank to find Amit Rohidas perfectly poised in front of the post.

Rohidas, with no real threat from the Bangladesh defenders, struck the ball into the goal winning India a 4-0 lead.

Hockey: India Thrash Bangladesh In Asia Cup 9
Image Source: Facebook

Only a minute later, India won four back-to-back penalty corners but the Bangladeshi defenders denied Harmanpreet Singh a successful dragflick.

However, in the 28th minute a deliberate stick-check in the circle by a Bangladeshi defender saw them concede a penalty stroke. Harmanpreet made no mistake in converting it and take India’s lead to a formidable 5-0.

Two minutes into the third quarter, India won a penalty corner but India’s young dragflicker Varun Kumar’s effort was padded away.

India won back-to-back penalty corners the following minute but nothing came out of it. In the third quarter a few of the opportunities created in the circle by India, were well-defended by Bangladeshi goalkeeper Nippon.

Having dominated with 70 per cent ball possession, India began the fourth quarter with a penalty corner. A clever variation saw Varun softly flick the ball to injector Ramandeep Singh who deflected the ball into the goal earning India their sixth goal of the match.

India won their 10th penalty corner of the match within seconds and this time the umpire awarded another penalty corner as Varun’s effort was obstructed by Bangladeshi defenders.

This time, Harmanpreet fiercely struck the ball to the top of the net to earn India a 7-0 lead. Good work in the circle by Varun and Sunil saw India win a penalty corner with less than two minutes to go for the final hooter but Harmanpreet’s effort went too high up the post, ending the match with a 7-0 victory.

India will take on Pakistan in their third Pool A match on Sunday.

 

Hockey: India Aim To Outplay Bangladesh In Asia Cup (Preview)

Dhaka, Oct 12 (IANS) After a dominant performance against Japan in their campaign at the Hero Asia Cup, the India hockey team, led by Manpreet Singh, will take on hosts Bangladesh in their next Pool A encounter here on Friday.

Apart from an initial set back when Japan equalised in the fourth minute, India sailed through the match improvising their game hooter-to-hooter and rarely ever stumbled against the Japanese counter-attack.

“Yes, we are good with our counter-attacks but India just proved to be very fast for us in the end. I was happy with how our boys kept up the first two quarters but India stayed fast-paced throughout the game and they are a very very fit team,” pointed out Japanese national coach Siegfried Aikman.

On Friday, the Indian team will look to carrying forward their sublime form and build on the confidence they have gained from a fine start to the tournament when they take on Bangladesh.

“As a coach, I am always critical so I have to say I am not 100 per cent happy with how we played. I believe we can do better but this was our first match and now that the team is done with shaking off the initial jitters, I think we can focus on improved performance in the next game,” stated India’s Chief Coach Sjoerd Marijne.

The match against Japan saw India’s experienced Sardar Singh play a role as freeman defender. He was commanding in the position, steering the game from the back, giving enough room for defender Harmanpreet Singh to make the long runs in the midfield. Which also worked well as he assisted forward Lalit Upadhyay with a long scoop that was brilliantly struck into the post earning India’s second goal.

“I think Sardar is very good in that position. We have played many practice matches before we came here where he played fullback. He is accurate with his long passes and he can guide the team in the front. This is working well for us,” expressed skipper Manpreet on his compatriot’s role as a freeman defender.

Against Bangladesh, who lost 0-7 against Pakistan in their first match on Wednesday, India will only have to stick to their basics and execute what’s planned.

“If we are able to do that (stick to our plans), then I don’t see why we should not win the match,” added a confident Marijne who is on his first major tournament with the Indian men’s team.

Meanwhile, skipper of Bangladesh Rashel Mahmud said that his team will have to be much better against India if they must give the No.1 ranked team in the tournament a tough fight.

“We did not play a good match against Pakistan and made a lot of mistakes that led them to score so many goals. It was a bad start but we don’t want to let this loss affect our confidence. We will comeback as a better team against India,” he stated after the match against Pakistan.

Preview: Under Marijne, India’s Hockey Team Seeks Fresh Start In Asia Cup

Dhaka, Oct 10 (IANS) The Indian men’s hockey team will seek a fresh start under new chief coach Sjoerd Marijne as it opens the Hero Asia Cup campaign against Japan at the Maulana Bhashani National Stadium here on Wednesday.

Dutchman Marijne, who has spent around 20 days with the men’s squad, replaced sacked Roelant Oltmans last month. Marijne’s new wards enter an important cycle with major tournaments coming up in the next 15 months including the Hockey World League (HWL) Final in December, Commonwealth Games in April followed by the Asian Games and the 2018 World Cup.

This cycle begins with the Asia Cup, in which the Indians are favourites. India are the top-ranked side in Asia and over the past few years, they are the only Asian team to have claimed medals at global tournaments.

However, they need to bring their top game to every match to ensure they top Pool A which will also see Bangladesh and Pakistan in the fray.

They will also have to bring some technical and tactical adjustments to their game according to the ideas of Marijne.

We have had two good practice sessions on the main pitch and even played a practice match against Oman. The team is upbeat and ready for the first challenge,’ captain Manpreet Singh said.

“The opening match of the tournament is always challenging because we need to get over the early nervousness and find our rhythm.”

India played Japan in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup earlier this year where they beat them 4-3. It’s Japan’s ability to play fast-paced hockey with good attack that makes it an unpredictable team.

At the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup they set up a shocking 3-2 win over World No.2 Australia.

“We have seen how they play and they are definitely one of the fastest improving sides in Asia. We can never take Japan to be an easy team,” said Manpreet.

India’s defence line-up is inexperienced with Rupinder Pal Singh and Kothajit Singh missing out due to injuries. The defence line-up has young players in Dipsan Tirkey, Surender Kumar, Harmanpreet Singh, Varun Kumar and returning Amit Rohidas.

Captain Manpreet feels that Rohidas, who is making his comeback after a couple of years, will make the most of his opportunities.

“But we are now joined by Amit Rohidas who has just returned from a good outing at the Australian Hockey League and he did well during India’s tour of Belgium and Holland,” explained Manpreet.

Manpreet, alongside S.K. Uthappa and Sardar Singh will be key midfielders, while S.V. Sunil, Akashdeep Singh, Ramandeep Singh are the key forwards.

India will face Bangladesh on October 13. The team will play their third and final league match against arch foes Pakistan on October 15.

Japanese coach Siegfried Aikman minced no words when he said that every team stands a chance to make the final in this tournament. “It’s a major tournament which gives us the opportunity to play at the highest level. The World Cup qualifier makes it even more challenging for us but reality learns that we need to know our place in the ranking. 

“We stand for a huge challenge to compete with outstanding teams in our group. However, this is sports and in sports its always possible to flip the script. So, let’s wait and see,” he stated.

India squad:

Goalkeepers: Akash Anil Chikte, Suraj Karkera

Defenders: Dipsan Tirkey, Amit Rohidas, Surender Kumar, Harmanpreet Singh, Varun Kumar

Midfielders: S.K. Uthappa, Sardar Singh, Manpreet Singh (Captain), Chinglensana Singh, Sumit

Forwards: S.V. Sunil (Vice Captain), Akashdeep Singh, Ramandeep Singh, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay, Gurjant Singh, Satbir Singh.

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