Champions Trophy: Confident India takes on Belgium

India is second in the pool stage following a 3-3 draw against defending champion Germany and a 2-1 win over Britain. Both India and Australia have four points each but the reigning world champion is ahead on better goal difference.

Manpreet Singh of India in action against Great Britain.   -  Getty Images

India will aim to continue its impressive performance in the Hockey Champions Trophy when it faces an under-pressure Belgium side at the Lee Valley Hockey Centre here on Monday.

India is second in the pool stage following a 3-3 draw against defending champion Germany and a 2-1 win over Britain. Both India and Australia have four points each but the reigning world champion is ahead on better goal difference.

World No.7 India come into the fifth-ranked Belgium game with two impressive performances. The Roelant Oltmans-coached side on Friday began its campaign with a brilliant performance against Germany, even though it was a 3-3 draw. India had a 3-1 lead but the two-time Olympic champion came back strong to force a draw.

In the second game, India went up 2-0 before Britain pulled one back but the former held on to seal the win.

The defensive structure put up by Oltmans has earned praises from many experts and it will be another test for the likes of goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh and the defenders — V.R. Raghunath, Harmanpreet Singh, Surender Kumar and Kothajit Singh.

Harmanpreet has scored a penalty corner and a penalty stroke, while Raghunath struck in the first game against the Germans.

Despite the absence of Sardar Singh, India have a strong array of midfielders in Manpreet Singh, Dharamvir Singh, Danish Mujtaba and Chinglensana Singh.

They have played a perfect foil to the attackers. S.V. Sunil is very good form and with his speed, he has been assisting the central strikers with numerous inroads into the rival circle.

Young Mandeep Singh has already scored two goals and his ability to be in the best of positions at the right time is coming to the fore. Akashdeep Singh has looked slightly off-colour but given the talent, he can spring into life. Other forwards in the squad are Nikkin Thimmiah and Talwinder singh.

After the conclusion of the game against Britain, Indian coach Oltmans said the team has surprised him.

“I’ve been in India three years now and I hope that people see that we are improving. That for me is the most important thing, that the team is getting better,” he said.

“Overall, we saw some great performances from some young players. The team is surprising me.”

Belgium comes into the match following an 0-2 upset loss against South Korea and a 4-4 draw against Germany. In the match against Germany, it had a 4-2 lead before the title holder scored twice between the 50th and 55th minute.

Belgium is known as an attacking unit with the likes of Florent van Aubel, Tanguy Cosyns, Cedric Charlier, Simon Gougnard among the frontmen.

Captain John-john Dohmen marshals the Belgian midfield, while other in the flanks are Felix Denayer, Jerome Truyens and Thomas Briels.

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