New Delhi, Jan 9 (IANS) All eyes will be on the young Indian team as it gears up for the Hockey World League Final that starts here Friday at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium.
India are in a tough group with Olympic champions Germany, World No.4 England and New Zealand. World champions Australia, Olympic runners-up the Netherlands, Argentina and Belgium make up the other group.
India captain Sardar Singh said that the tournament will be a challenge for the team in transition.
“We are a team in transition and have prepared hard for the tournament. It will be a challenging tournament for us but hopefully the boys will give their best,” said Sardar.
The India captain was realistic in saying that a 4-5 finish would be a decent performance for the side.
“The young boys have done well and hopefully they will be at their best. We are hoping for a 4th-5th place finish. But we have to really do well to meet our targets,” Sardar said.
Sardar also said that the tournament will also be a preparation for the FIH Hockey World Cup in Hague this May.
“We have an exciting year ahead. There couldn’t have been a better opportunity to test ourselves in a competition like this. We have high hopes from this year. Hopefully the team will also step up to the challenge,” he said.
India will start their campaign against England. Both the teams are short on match-practice, and England coach Bobby Crutchley said they are not worrying too much about the hosts.
“We are probably a bit like India; not played many matches recently. But we have done quite a lot of training. Our strategy will be just about focussing on our game and to give our best performance out there, not worrying too much about India,” said Crutchley.
“If India play well then they would be putting us under enough pressure but our challenge would be to play our quality ball game and show the ability to play at high intensity. We are trying to get into the tournament with a good start and then trying to build that momentum throughout,” he added.
Meanwhile, Germany remain one of the favourites to win the title. German coach Marcus Weise was happy with the training sessions here.
“The team is doing good and has been undertaking extensive training sessions for the tournament. Our players have been showcasing excellent skills during these sessions, which is a good sign and talks of their confidence. Throughout the practice matches, our focus has been on improving the basics and play good hockey,” he said.
Germany start against New Zealand and Weise hoped it would be an intersting contest.
“We are all set for tomorrow’s match against New Zealand. It is definitely going to be an interesting one, and, as it is our first match in the tournament, we will put in our best efforts to win. We are looking forward to put up a good show in this tournament and have targets set in our mind,” he said.