For the junior Indian hockey team, winning the tournament opener against Holland on December 6 is like winning the Junior Hockey World Cup. They are focussed enough to ensure that the opportunity does not slip out of their hands during their ongoing preparations at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium here.
Skipper Manpreet Singh doesn’t keep repeating it to his teammates that “it’s just one match at a time” and thinking too far could well mean the loss of focus for all.
“We are absolutely clear in our minds that it’s just one game at a time. We’re only thinking about Holland at this point of time. One win and everything else will fall in place for us,” Manpreet told dna on the sideline of team’s practice session.
The Indian juniors have a tough task ahead as the top 16 teams from across the world will lock horns for the top honours during December 6-15 tournament here. Manpreet led this team to glory at the Sultan Johor Cup tournament earlier this year and acknowledged that this squad was shaping up for the future under the watchful eyes of coach Gregg Clark.
“We were given a chance by Hockey India to take part in the recent Asian Champions Trophy. This was a great opportunity for all those 13 juniors to play against other senior teams of Asia. I’m sure that this has given us exposure as well as confidence to do well in the junior World Cup in front of our home crowd,” said the Indian captain.
“Germany and Holland are two strong teams. That’s why winning against Holland is the key to do well in the tournament,” says Manpreet, who is already part of the Indian senior squad.
The Indian skipper admitted that penalty corner conversion is his team’s weakness but promised to fill that up with swift counter-attacks. “Our strongest point is counter-attack. Also, defence is an area that will not allow any opponents to get in. Though, penalty corner is obviously our weakness but our coaches and support staff are working overtime to overcome this flaw,” Manpreet added.
Manpreet named star forward Ramandeep Singh as the most talented alongside Malak, Harjit and Talwinder Singh. “They are the rising stars of India. With the kind of training and exposure being given, they will only get better and serve Indian hockey in the years to come.”
About his assessment on India’s chances in the tourney, Manpreet said: “I see India playing the semis. Beyond that, it will be our luck.”