Indian junior players, Sunil Jojo and Sudeep Chirmako in Odisha team

Defender Sunil and striker Sudeep have returned to the State team after competing in the Junior Hockey World Cup in Bhubaneswar recently.

Indian World Cup stars Sunil Jojo (left) and Sudeep Chirmako, will be taking part in the Junior National men's hockey championships in Kovilpatti.

Odisha, the defending champion, has added two players—Indian stars Sunil Jojo and Sudeep Chirmako—to its team in the Junior National men’s hockey championships here.

Defender Sunil and striker Sudeep have returned to the State team after competing in the Junior Hockey World Cup in Bhubaneswar recently.

The two, who have been training together since their Rourkela Sports Hostel days in 2016-17, are definitely a value addition to Odisha, and they are determined to guide their state to retain the title.

“We play in different positions, but we have learnt a lot from each other. We will do well in this tournament as there are youngsters who are looking up to us,” Sunil told Sportstar.

Sudeep echoes the view: “Odisha consists majority of players who played in the last edition of the junior Nationals in 2019. We are eager to retain the crown,” he said.

The disappointment of the Indian junior team finishing fourth in the World Cup was writ large on their faces. “We didn’t convert our chances against France [in the third-place play-off match]. But our coach Graham Reid said that it is not the end of the road for us. We still have the 2023 World Cup, Asia Cup, and Sultan of Johor Cup. Reid also told us not to get demotivated’,” said Sudeep, who scored the lone goal in the 1-3 defeat to France in the third-place play-off contest.

Sunil said India played well against France in the bronze medal match but lost way after France scored in the third quarter. “In our first group match against France, we were unable to read them. But we rectified our mistakes and beat Belgium in the quarterfinals. Against France in the third-place match, we were equal but after the goal in the third quarter, we were mentally down,” said Sunil.

Odisha appears to be the overwhelming favourite for the crown. and the inclusion of Sunil and Sudeep has given the team's head coach Bijay Kumar Lakra a headstart.

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