The Indian team will be hosting Junior World Cup this year in Orissa where there will be pressure on Men in Blue to do well in their own backyard. Coach Graham Reid said that due to the lack of overseas tournaments, their practice game against the senior side have prepared them quite perfectly for the marquee event.
The additional pressure on the Indian team will be that they won the title last time and being defending champions they will start as one of the favorites in this tournament.
“While we did not have overseas competition, the teams played some practice games against the senior team in Bhubaneswar, which were quite valuable. Since arriving in Bhubaneswar, we have been getting used to the stadium,” Reid said.
“The Kalinga Hockey Stadium is truly iconic. It’s good that we are getting to train here before we start,” he added on the team’s preparations.
India is placed in Group B, along with Canada, France, and Poland, who all arrived in the city over the last week.
The Indian Junior side, Vivek Sagar Prasad will be looking to retain the prestigious trophy as they take center stage on their home turf.
“Our team became the champions in 2016 and now our team’s aim is to continue to perform in a similar manner,” Vivek, who was part of India’s historic bronze-medal winning performance at the Tokyo Olympics, said.
In Pool A, European Heavyweights Belgium will face Chile, Malaysia, and South Africa.
“India will be, of course, a force to watch playing at home with the qualities they have,” Belgium coach Jeroen Baart said on arrival.
Speaking on the prospect of playing at the Kalinga Stadium, Malaysia head coach Wallace Tan said, “Our team is very excited to play at the Kalinga Stadium as it is a very big and respected stadium.
“Many big tournaments have been held here, and many legends have played here, so it will be an honor to play here.” South Africa coach Sihle Ntuli picked Belgium as the toughest team in the group stage.
“In our group, we have Malaysia, Belgium, and Chile. I would think Belgium would be our toughest opponent. They are previous finalists, so we know it will be a difficult game. But we also think all the games will be difficult,” he said.