Manpreet Singh prioritises topping the pool and making quarterfinals

With less than two weeks to go for the prestigious World Cup which will witness 16 top teams battle for supremacy at the iconic Kalinga Stadium, India is busy making final preparations for its campaign.

Manpreet Singh shoots during the semifinal match between Malaysia and India at GBK Senayan on day twelve of the Asian Games. (FILE IMAGE)   -  Getty Images

India’s hockey captain Manpreet Singh said his team is focused on topping its pool and making the quarterfinals of the men’s World Cup starting on November 28.

With less than two weeks to go for the prestigious World Cup which will witness 16 top teams battle for supremacy at the iconic Kalinga Stadium, India is busy making final preparations for its campaign.

“There is no doubt we want to win every match in the Pool Stage, earn the three points from each match, and top the Pool to make the Quarter Final. That is our first hurdle,” said Manpreet.

“It’s the World Cup and every team will come with an intention of winning and we do not want to take any team lightly, be it South Africa, Canada or World No.3 Belgium.”

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Grouped in Pool C, India will face South Africa on November 28, before taking on Belgium on December 2 followed by its last group match against Canada on December 8.

While the Indian team has not faced South Africa in a major tournament in over two years, Manpreet said that a win in its first match will set them on the right course.

“Though we haven’t played them in any major tournament, we played a practice match against South Africa during the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. That match gave us an idea of how they play,” he said.

“Though we won we don’t want to go by the past result. We play them in our first match and it’s always good to get off to a winning start in any tournament,” added the 26-year-old captain.

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India celebrates a goal against Pakistan during the bronze medal match between India and Pakistan at the 2018 Asian Games.   -  AFP

 

While India has defeated Belgium recently at FIH Champions Trophy in Breda and last year’s Hockey World League final, Canada has posed India some serious threat in its past campaigns at major International Tournaments.

The team had drawn 2-2 against Canada in the round robin league at the Rio Olympics and in the 2017 Hockey World League Semi Final in London, India had lost 3-2 in the 5th-6th place play-off to Canada.

“It was a forgettable outing for us but I believe we have improved as a team in the past two years and we have learnt from every tournament. If we play our best hockey, who we are playing should not matter,” he said.

“Even against Belgium, if we are able to score early then the pressure will be on them. For now, our team is focused on winning the three points from each match in Pool C.”