Indian hockey head coach Graham Reid said England will be a tougher opponent than Spain, which India outclassed 2-0 in its opening World Cup match. Thus, he added, the home team cannot lower its guard in the second group match on Sunday.
Local hero Amit Rohidas and midfielder Hardik Singh scored in India’s dominant win against Spain on Friday. A win against England, ranked fifth in the world, on Sunday will help India put one foot in the quarterfinals as it can fancy its chances of beating Wales in its final Pool D match.
India is ranked sixth in the world while Wales is 15th.
“We are up against England next and it will be tougher. They are ranked higher than us. We know how tough England were in the Commonwealth Games,” Reid said.
Last year, the two sides faced each other three times with their last match played at CWG 2022 in Birmingham, ending 4-4 in the group stage. They played out a 3-3 draw in the first leg of the Pro League match before India won 4-3 in the second, both games played in April.
“So, we will try to continue our good work (from the Spain match). We did really well defensively (against Spain). We have to continue it,” Reid added.
Captain Harmanpreet Singh agreed that England would be a tough opponent and the home side will have to play its best hockey to beat it.
“We are taking it match by match. Spain is done now and our focus is on England and we are planning for that,” he said.
“Winning penalty corners is very important and we can be better in PC conversion. We are hoping we will do better in that regard,” said the drag-flicker who was not at his best in the match against Spain.
He could not find the target in the five penalty corners India got and also wasted a penalty stroke.
“Once again, we need team effort. We have to make up for those who do not do that well on a particular day.” Rohidas, who started learning his hockey from the Panposh Sports Hostel in Rourkela, said execution of team plans will be key to win matches.
“I started from the Panposh Sports Hostel here and playing at home is a wonderful feeling. The support from such a large crowd motivated us but once we are on the pitch, we try to focus on the game,” he said.
“It is a team effort. Because of the team I got the chance to score in front of the home crowd which included my family members. We are not under pressure and the key to our success will be to execute the plans of the team.” Rohidas was in the perfect place to slam the ball home past a hapless Spain goalkeeper after Harmanpreet’s drag flick rebounded from the stick of a defender. Hardik later made a solo run to score India’s second goal.