It’s a big day for Indian hockey as world No 5 India take on world No 4 Netherlands in the last quarter-final on Thursday at the Kalinga Stadium in Odisha. India can qualify for the World Cup semi-finals for the first time in four decades with a win against the Dutch team.
The Manpreet Singh-led team has looked good so far in the group stages but the real test begins now as they play a team they have never beaten in a World Cup before.
Former captain and Indian hockey great Sardar Singh said that India can have a shot at reaching the semis if they maintained their attacking style and each player did the job assigned to them, in a video interview.
“India has started well in the World Cup, but in some patches they have been poor as well. If India can play the first quarter with the same energy that they are bringing in the third and fourth quarter, I think India can get even better,” Sardar said.
Speaking about India’s strengths, the former captain said that counterattack will be the need of the hour.
“India’s traditional style of hockey has been attacking while Europeans play man-to-man, defensive hockey. We have a good forward line and midfielders so if you beat the Europeans in one-on-one then you have a lot of options to play. If India can attack wisely, choose which part to tackle and individual players do their jobs, I am sure India can have a favourable result.
“Stick to the basics, play within the structure and India can create problems for their opponents,” he added.
Sardar also had a word of praise for the big crowds turning out in Bhubaneshwar for India’s matches. “Fans in Odisha have always supported the Indian hockey team and the recent matches as well, we have seen them motivate fans which is a huge plus. Personally, when fans cheer you with positive energy it helps both individually and as a team,” he said.
Before India’s crunch match, Olympic silver medallist Belgium will play former world champions Germany in the other quarter-final.
“The team are ranked very close to each other and their playing styles are also similar. Also through the tournament we have seen that both teams have good strategy and quality players. The team that starts with good energy and scores quick goals, the match will go in their favour,” Sardar said.
The hockey great also observed that Belgium have started playing attaching hockey in this tournament. “Normally, European teams play defensive hockey but from what I have seen of Belgium, they are attacking forward toward the goal.
Germany play defensive hockey as well, they rotate the ball more and make their opponents run and wait for the right moment,” he said talking about each team’s strengths.
You can watch the full video here