On paper, India will be firm favourite to win, and win big, against Wales in its final Pool D match in Bhubaneswar on Friday. The gap between the two teams is evident in every possible way – ranking, experience, legacy, expectations, support. It’s the last two ones that will be what India coach Graham Reid calls dual-edged swords. That and the danger of crossing the faint, barely visible line between confidence and overconfidence.
After playing their first two league matches in Rourkela, the teams landed in Bhubaneswar on Monday and have been sweating it out at what has virtually been their home for the past few years. The injury to Hardik Singh was a dampener but things are looking better for the youngster for future games. The 15,000-capacity Kalinga Stadium is expected to be packed and while Wales did face the crowd in Rourkela, this would be the first time the Welsh would feel the full force of it, playing against the host.
India’s defence has come good against tougher opponents so far in the competition and will be looking to maintain the momentum against Wales without getting complacent. The Indian forward line of Shamsher Singh, Abhishek, Sukhjeet Singh and Mandeep Singh will be looking to finally find their shots on target although it won’t be easy – the Welsh were overwhelmed in their first two games but not without a gritty defensive display. And India’s penalty corner conversion, the one area of concern for the host, will be tested. As of now, India’s actual win margin requirement will depend on the result of Spain vs England match earlier in the day.
Of course, the best option for India vis-a-vis the other Pool D game would be Spain defeating England. That would not only see Spain leapfrog into second position but also leave India to manage just a win to top the Pool without bothering with the number of goals. Spain has had one win so far but the youthful side has been impressive in its confident and tactical play and will not be an easy opponent for its European rival. At the same time, England’s woes with penalty corners has continued, making any bets on the result of the face-off risky.
Also in action on Thursday will be the Dutch, taking on minnows Chile in their final league game, and Malaysia and New Zealand fighting for the second spot. While Netherlands is assured of a top spot with two wins in two so far and an easy victory predicted against the South American debutants, Malaysia and New Zealand are tied on three points with the Black Sticks currently ahead on goal difference.
Thursday’s matches: Pool C: Malaysia vs New Zealand (1 pm), Netherlands vs Chile (3 pm); Pool D: Spain vs England (5 pm), India vs Wales (7 pm).
- Ranji Trophy quarterfinal: Tamil Nadu eliminates defending champion Saurashtra to enter semis
- India’s rekindled wizardry of spin leaves England in tatters – just what the doctor ordered
- WPL 2024: Gujarat Giants stumble to five-wicket loss against Mumbai Indians in low-scoring encounter
- Chelsea vs Liverpool Carabao Cup 2023-24 final Highlights: Van Dijk’s extra-time header makes Liverpool EFL League Cup champion
- Al Shabab vs Al Nassr LIVE updates, SHB 1-1 NAS, Saudi Pro League: Carrasco, Ronaldo penalties keep match level at half-time