India captain Manpreet Singh on Wednesday said his team is focused on topping their pool at the Men’s Hockey World Cup later this month and reaching the quarter-finals.
With less than two weeks to go for the World Cup begins in Odisha on November 28, which will witness 16 top teams battle for supremacy at the iconic Kalinga Stadium, India are busy making final preparations to their campaign.
“There is no doubt we want to win every match in the pool stage, earn the three points from each match, and top the pool to make the quarter-final. That is our first hurdle,” said Manpreet.
“It’s the World Cup and every team will come with an intention of winning and we do not want to take any team lightly, be it South Africa, Canada or world No 3 Belgium,” he added.
Placed in Pool C, India will face South Africa on November 28, before taking on Belgium on December 2, followed by their last group match against Canada on December 8.
While the Indian team has not faced South Africa in a major tournament in over two years, Manpreet said that a win in their first match will set them on the right course.
“Though we haven’t played them in any major tournament, we played a practice match against South Africa during the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. That match gave us an idea of how they play,” he said.
“Though we won we don’t want to go by the past result. We play them in our first match and it’s always good to get off to a winning start in any tournament,” added the 26-year-old.
While India have defeated Belgium recently at the Champions Trophy in Breda and last year’s Hockey World League Final, Canada have posed them some serious threat in their past campaigns at major international tournaments.
The team had drawn 2-2 against Canada in the round-robin league at the Rio Olympics. In the 2017 Hockey World League Semi Final in London, India had lost 3-2 to Canada in the 5th-6th place play-off.
“It was a forgettable outing for us but I believe we have improved as a team in the past two years and we have learnt from every tournament. If we play our best hockey, who we are playing should not matter,” Manpreet said.
“Even against Belgium, if we are able to score early then the pressure will be on them. For now, our team is focused on winning the three points from each match in Pool C.”