Conditions in Germany right now, described their men’s national hockey coach Andre Henning, is “zero degrees Celsius, some places it’s still snowing.”

From that the team has travelled to the warm 37-degree heat of Bhubaneswar for a double-header against India in the FIH Pro League. But the weather isn’t the only thing that the visitors will have to overcome when the play the team placed at the top of the leaderboard.

There’s an element of uncertainty within the German team that comes from the 12 players – of the 22 – who will be making their senior debuts during the two matches on April 14 and 15. Most from the regular squad are occupied with club matches, and so Henning decided this was a good chance to test the youth players against a quality Indian team with a look to building a squad for the World Cup next year, and the Paris 2024 and Los Angeles 2028 Olympics.

“Our main focus here is learning and developing,” Henning said in a pre-match press conference.

“This is probably the youngest German (national) team there has ever been. It’s more of a future-based team here, as we’re looking to create a squad keeping the 2028 Olympics in mind. But honestly, I don’t know what level we are at.”

Germany is currently second in the group standings with 17 points. They managed six wins (one from a shootout) from their eight matches, along with two defeats.

India, meanwhile, is at the top of the leaderboard with 21 points after winning seven matches (one through a shootout). The hosts though refuse to take the Germans for granted, even if it is an unknown squad that has travelled to Bhubaneswar.

“The thing with youngsters is that they will work hard to prove themselves,” said vice-captain Harmanpreet Singh.

“Our focus is to make sure we improve as a team, and not worry about who is coming.

“When it’s experienced opponents, we know what they do, what their strengths are, but we still can’t take players we have never faced or seen before lightly. But anyway, we generally know how Germany is and what style they groom their players in.”

Henning is confident in the players he has brought, even if a majority of them lack the experience of playing at the senior international level, especially against a high-quality team like the hosts. He’s not sure what to expect from his team, but he is hoping there the players will surprise him.

“When we asked the players (about playing the tie), everyone was excited, thankful and grateful. We don’t know yet if it’s going to work,” he said.

“It can surprise us. We’re not sure how we’re going to play. We have to get as much and as close as possible. That’s the challenge. But I’m happy.”

The result is not what matters to Henning in these next two days. What he hopes to get from this tie is a glimpse of the future of Germany’s hockey stars.

India’s match against Germany on April 14 will start at 1930 hrs IST, and 1700 hrs IST on April 15. The matches will be live on Star Sports First and Disney+Hotstar.