With tickets available at throwaway prices, Indian juniors are banking on the home crowd to back them against the fancied Holland in the opening tie of the Hockey Junior World Cup that gets under way at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium here on Friday.
Dutch coach Sjoerd Marijne understands the pressure on his junior wards and has asked his team to focus on the task ahead and not bother about the external pressures as playing against any host team is always tough around the world. Having finished runners-up in the last edition in 2009, Marijne doesn’t want to leave anything to chance this time as his boys have talent and toughness to finish at the top.
“My players are very tough and stable. They are looking forward to their opening game against hosts India,” Marijne told dna after his team’s final practice session on Thursday, adding: “At this level, it’s difficult to choose between the teams. The team will handle the pressure well will win this tourney.”
The Dutch coach’s sentiments were shared by his Indian counterpart Greg Clark, who felt that winning the first game would set a good momentum ahead in the tournament. “We feel we have prepared well for this tournament. Winning the first game of every tournament gives you the momentum to go forward. It gives you confidence and home advantage is certainly with us,” Clark said.
“I think we have a very strong team at the moment. There are quite a few players who will go on to represent India in senior international hockey. The home advantage should be grabbed by our players,” Clark said.
Indian skipper Manpreet Singh is also aware of the public expectations in the wake of podium finish by their women counterparts when they won a historic bronze at Mochengladbach, Germany earlier this year.
The Indians would be eyeing at least a draw against The Netherlands if not a win because they know very well that it is always difficult to make a comeback in a short four-team pool after a loss. India have won the Junior World Cup once only in 2001 while they finished fourth, after losing to Spain, in 2005.
Playing today: Korea vs Canada,12 pm; Australia vs Argentina (Live on Ten Sports, 2pm); Germany vs Belgium,2.30pm; New Zealand vs Malaysia (Live on Ten Sports, 4pm); Spain vs France, 5pm; Pakistan vs Eygpt(Live on Ten Sports, 6pm); England vs South Africa, 7.30pm; Netherlands vs India (Live on Ten Sports, 8pm)
1982: West Germany
1985: West Germany
1989: West Germany