Bogged down by two successive losses, an under-pressure Indian hockey team will be confronted by Spain's livewire strikers when the two teams clash in their preliminary league encounter of the World Cup at the Greenfields Stadium at The Hague on Thursday.
After conceding match-winners to Belgium and England in the closing stages of successive matches, the Indian defence will need to raise its game several notches against Spain, who won a penalty shootout against India for the fifth position when they last met in the 2013 World League Semifinals.
Financial woes have forced the Spanish hockey team to opt out of some big-league events over the past two years, but the crux of the team is still there, and could again be troublesome for the Indian defenders. Santi Frexia and seasoned Eduard Tubau would be major threat to the wobbly defence of India.
Indian team's technical director, Roelant Oltmans feels the high-quality individuals in the Spanish team could pose problems for his team. But Indian players, according to Oltmans, are professional enough to overcome the trauma of the losses in earlier games. "We've not played Spain often in recent times, but they have several high-quality players in their ranks. We'll have to perform well as a team to overcome this rival," said Oltmans. Oltmans said it was disappointing to have lost two matches due to late goals, but the Indian team has "played quite well."
Oltmans said there were clear signs of the team's rising performance graph, and it should be visible more in the World Cup itself.
"We're disappointed over the result, but not at the level of performance by the boys. In due course, it should lead to better results. The Indian team needs to lift its game further," he said.