Following their title success at the 2016 Men’s Junior World Cup in Lucknow, reigning champions and competition hosts India have set their sights on retaining their crown at the sport’s central locale in the country: Bhubaneswar’s magnificent Kalinga Stadium.

The Indian team led by Vivek Sagar Prasad will take on France in the final fixture on the opening day. In other matches on Wednesday, Belgium will play South Africa, Malaysia will face Chile, Germany will take on Pakistan and Canada will lock horns against Poland

India’s victory in Lucknow – their second Junior World Cup title, adding to the one claimed at the 2001 competition in Hobart, Australia – was a remarkable upturn in form, with the team having only managed a 10th place finish at the 2013 competition in New Delhi.

Indeed, 2021 has been a memorable year for Indian hockey, with the men’s team ending a 41-year wait for an Olympic Games medal at Tokyo 2020 while the women’s team made a sensational run till the semifinals and eventually finishing fourth.

The senior men’s side contained a number of players from the batch of 2016 and success in Bhubaneswar would only serve to reinforce India’s recent upturn in the sport they have historically dominated.

From India’s Pool B to a power-packed Pool D, a group-wise preview

Pool A: Belgium, Chile, Malaysia, South Africa

Pool B: Canada, France, India, Poland

Pool C: Korea, Netherlands, Spain, USA

Pool D: Argentina, Egypt, Germany, Pakistan

A top two finish in the Pool is the only way to secure a place in the competition quarter-finals 

India, as defending champions and playing at a familiar venue, are one of the tournament favourites along side Belgium, Germany and Netherlands, especially after the pull out of Australia, New Zealand and England due to Covid-related travel restrictions.

Five countries have traditionally dominated the tournament with Germany being the most successful team with six titles, followed by India (twice). Argentina, Australia and Pakistan have won the tournament once each. Netherlands, incidentally, have won never this trophy and the mighty Oranje will look put that record right.

All-time list of Medallists

Year Host Gold Silver Bronze
1979 Versailles, France Pakistan West Germany Netherlands
1982 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia West Germany Australia Pakistan
1985 Vancouver, Canada West Germany Netherlands Pakistan
1989 Ipoh, Malaysia West Germany Australia Pakistan
1993 Terrassa, Spain Germany Pakistan Australia
1997 Milton Keynes, England Australia India Germany
2001 Hobart, Australia India Argentina Germany
2005 Rotterdam, Netherlands Argentina Australia Spain
2009 Johor Bahru, Malaysia & Singapore Germany Netherlands Australia
2013 New Delhi, India Germany France Netherlands
2016 Lucknow, India India Belgium Germany
2021 Bhubaneswar, India

Finals of Men’s Junior Hockey World Cup 

2016: India 2-1 Belgium 

2013: Germany 5-2 France 

2009: Germany 3-1 Netherlands 

2005: Argentina 2-1 Australia 

2001: India 6-1 Argentina 

1997: Australia 3-2 India 

1993: Germany 3-1 Pakistan 

1989: West Germany 1-1 Australia (4-2 aps) 

1985: West Germany 4-1 Netherlands 

1982: West Germany 4-1 Australia 

1979: Pakistan 2-0 West Germany 

India’s campaign

Still relishing the country’s historic bronze medal-winning feat at the Tokyo Olympics, captain Vivek Sagar Prasad wants the Indian junior hockey players to inculcate the team first mentality as they look to defend their FIH Junior World Cup title.

Prasad, who was a part of the Indian team that won a bronze at the Tokyo Olympics earlier this year, said he just tried to pass on his experiences to his junior teammates.

“We have played a few practice games against the senior team. That experience will be helpful. The starting match is always important in any tournament,” he said in a virtual press conference on Tuesday.

“During my stay with the senior side, I have learned some valuable lessons from the big stage like team always comes first. My job will be to keep the team together and pass on the Olympic experience as much as I can.”

Indian senior men’s hockey chief coach Graham Reid, who has been working with the juniors after guiding the country to the Olympic bronze, said his job was to help coach BJ Kariappa (listed as the team’s assistant coach), who has been with the youngsters since the last one-and-half years.

“They have been working with Kariappa since the last few years in Bengaluru. My job was to put icing on the cake but it is very difficult to do so in such a short period,” he said.

“The routine is the same with both the seniors and juniors...pass on as much experience as we can. It is pleasing to watch Vivek pass on his knowledge and show leadership skills. Hopefully, we can use some of those experiences here.”

Reid said the Junior World Cup has always been a big platform to scout talents for the senior side.

“It’s a natural progression. I am hoping to get the intermediate group in between the World Cup. The tournament is a good ground to find new players.

“If these guys show any talent like some of the guys of 2016 Junior World Cup-winning side, then we can say India is on a strong position in world hockey. It is their opportunity to showcase their talent on the world stage,” the Australian coach said.

India’s squad for the World Cup:

  1. Shardanand Tiwari
  2. Prashant Chauhan (GK)
  3. Sanjay (VC)
  4. Sudeep Chirmako
  5. Rahul Kumar Rajbhar
  6. Maninder Singh
  7. Pawan (GK)
  8. Vishnukant Singh
  9. Ankit Pal
  10. Uttam Singh
  11. Sunil Jojo
  12. Manjeet
  13. Rabichandra Singh Moirangthem
  14. Vivek Sagar Prasad (C)
  15. Abhishek Lakra
  16. Yashdeep Siwach
  17. Gurmukh Singh
  18. Araijeet Singh Hundal
— Hockey India

India coach Graham Reid

“Every coach who comes to an event as important as the Junior World Cup likes to think that they will be there at the end of the tournament. Certainly, our objective is to make that final game. To put ourselves in that category we first need to win the first three games in our Pool. So, we will be taking each game as it comes. That’s the first objective. After that, obviously if we end up in the quarter-finals and then the semi-finals, we’ll go from there. But certainly, we aim to be there at the end.”

— FIH Media

India’s Men’s Junior World Cup history: 2016 – 1st, 2013 – 10th, 2009 – 9th, 2005 – 4th, 2001 – 1st, 1997 – 2nd, 1985 – 5th, 1982 – 5th, 1979 – 5th

India’s group schedule: India will open their title defence against France in Pool B on the opening day of the 16-team tournament at the Kalinga Stadium on Wednesday.

No fans

The players and officials coming to the state capital for the upcoming junior men’s hockey world cup are subjected to RT-PCR tests every 72 hours, according to a senior sports department official, PTI had reported. On an average 500 tests are being conducted and same day reports are being generated by ICMR’s Regional Medical Research Centre (RMRC), Bhubaneswar.

The tournament is being played behind closed doors and will be a telecast-only affair as Hockey India and FIH jointly decided, given the possibility of fans flocking to the stadiums given the regions love for the sport.

“With the sheer popularity of the sport in this region and expected crowds in the stadium, the organisers believe it would not be possible control that number of people and yet follow all the necessary covid guidelines and protocols laid out [by various parties]. Social distancing is a priority due to the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic situation and the safety of the fans and athletes needs to be prioritised,” Hockey India had said.

Courtesy: FIH Media

Broadcast details

After five days of pool stage matches, the classification matches will be held from 30th November with the Quarter Finals to be played on 1 December, Semi Finals on 3 December and the title clash will be played on 5 December.

The first six days of the competition (24-30 November) will be broadcast to our global audience live and free of charge via the Watch.Hockey app. From 1–5 December, the Watch.Hockey app will be live streaming matches free of charge to all territories outside of India, Maldives, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, locations which are subject to existing broadcast rights agreements. In India, Star Sports network is the broadcast partner.

(With PTI and FIH inputs)

India's squad (Graphic courtesy: Hockey India / Twitter)