The Indian Hockey Team might have already qualified for the Rio Olympics next year, but captain Sardar Singh says that India are just not ‘mere tourists’ at the Hockey World League in Antwerp, Belgium.
India, who have already qualified for the 2016 Olympics and the Hockey World League finals later this year, don’t have much at stake as far as the tournament is concerned. But for a lot of teams like arch-rivals Pakistan, it is the last chance to book the Olympic spot. The Hockey World League Semifinals offers 3 spots for the Rio Olympics.
Three spots are also available for the World Hockey League Finals, but India automatically qualify for it courtesy being the hosts. This gives India to try out some young players and few different strategies under new coach Paul Van Ass.
Taking to the media in Antwerp, Sardar Singh said, “We are not tourists at this tournament, certainly not. We may have already qualified for the Olympics, but we certainly want to perform well going into the World League Finals that India will host later in the year. We want to do well here as much at any other team.”
Taking about the match against Poland, who gave Pakistan a tough time to Pakistan before losing 1-2, Sardar said, “Poland is a good team and if they are in the Semi-Final round that means they have some quality players in their team. We cant afford to take them lightly at any moment as they are capable of turning matches in their favour. The defeat in Sydney Olympics is still fresh in many hockey players and we will not repeat the mistakes made in the match.” He hoped that the young Indian players will learn from their mistakes in the previous game against France, where India won 3-2.
“We will continue our strategy of keeping the ball possession on our side and play aggressively till the last minute. The win against France boosted our morale and we have set our feet in Antwerp. We will play for the win only,” he added
Poland are ranked 17, 8 positions below India, and India face them today in their second outing of the tournament. India are currently hampered by the absence of their two defenders (also drag-flickers) in the form V R Raghunath and Rupinder Pal Singh but coach Paul Van Ass is hopeful of a better showing by the defence in the match against Poland.
“The first match was a good one for us and we will continue our form in the next match. We are not considering Poland as minnows because they have some noticeable talents who are a cause for worry for us. We will stick to our strategies of the previous match but will make some changes in the team combinations. We have some good young players and I want to give them more opportunities. Having said that, we will not give any chance to Poland to dominate the match and we are looking for a win against them,” added Paul Van Ass.