Junior World Cup: India looks to go past England

England had registered a 4-2 victory in its opening game against South Africa and India would be cautious as it looks to seal a quarterfinal spot with another win.

India junior Hockey World Cup

Indian coach Harendra Singh with players during a practice session at the Major Dhyan Chand stadium in Lucknow.   -  Rajeev Bhatt

A dominant performance against Canada notwithstanding, India would be facing its toughest challenge in the group stages of the Junior World Cup here when it takes on England in its second game at the Major Dhyan Chand Stadium on Saturday.

England had registered a 4-2 victory in its opening game against South Africa and India would be cautious as it looks to seal a quarterfinal spot with another win. The host, among the favourites to win the title, would also be keen to continue its good run against England after winning the Test series against it a month ago.

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India coach Harendra Singh had warned after the previous win that his boys would only get better as the tournament progresses. “We know if we keep going like this we will get to our goal. We have to keep improving match by match. But they have more potential and we show that in future,” he had said.

Captain Harjeet Singh added that the game against England would be completely different. “Your own performance also depends on the opposition. If the opponent is sharp and strong, you stay more alert. We are expecting England to come hard at us and we are prepared for it,” Harjeet said.

England's two best performances in the tournament had come in 1997 and 2001 – fourth place finish both the times – which incidentally were also the best outings for India, ending as runner-up and then eventually winner in 2001.

With four of its players having played in the previous edition of the tournament in Delhi, England would be hoping to make full use of its advantage. In comparison, India only has Harjeet and forward Mandeep Singh from the 2013 edition. However, the presence of defender and drag-flicker Harmanpreet Singh has been a big advantage given the youngster's Olympic experience in Rio.

“Yes, there is a difference in experience but that doesn't mean anything special. I played the last edition but Harman was there in Rio with the senior side so that has been a big plus. We keep asking him about how to handle the pressure and other things and we also share our experiences. We are all very close and confident of our strengths as a unit,” Harjeet said.