CHENNAI: As the Indian men’s hockey team touches down in London for the World League Semifinal to be held from June 15 to 25, they will know there is lots to be done if they are to continue on the upward road towards the World Hockey League Finals in Bhubaneswar in December.
Having finished last in the three Nations invitational tournament, Roelant Oltmans’ boys know they cannot think about being in transition for too long.
Skipper Manpreet Singh was not fazed, saying the experience of playing two Olympic medal-winning teams would help. “We learned lots. Going into the tournament, we knew we couldn’t allow the fact that they’re Olympic medallists to affect us. Our focus was on executing plans. We’ll play both again in the World League Final, which is the most important tournament for us this year, and the experience we gained here will help prepare better against them,” he said.
At the World League Semifinals, India are in Pool B alongside Canada, Scotland, Netherlands and Pakistan. The side will also play two practice games against World No 1 Argentina and England before the event. The 24-year-old was also keen on improving overall displays. “While our aim is to finish top 2 in London, it’s important we play match by match and not take any team lightly, especially in the pool stage.
“For that, all-round performance is key. We cannot be excellent in defence while missing goal-scoring opportunities. Though we came up with good overall performances in the tri series, there were times when we missed chances. Against top teams, we have to be accurate in all areas. At the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup also, we knew we had to work on finishing. We did come back after conceding, but a few misses in final quarter cost us.”
The World League final is where the team wants to peak. “We still have a few more to go before the World League Final. That is where we want to be at our best. Until then, every match is a learning process. So far, I’m happy with how the team has done, and we have a few youngsters who don’t have experience at this level, especially the goalkeepers,” he noted.
“Both Vikas (Dahiya) and Akash (Chikte) have done well, and this is one of their first events with the senior team in Europe. I’m sure the performances in Germany will help them in London better, and I’m optimistic of a good show there.”