India well-prepared for 'unique' Pool C, says Harendra Singh

Being in a group with teams from three different continents in the Hockey World Cup 2018 is a great opportunity for Indian players to learn and understand different styles.

Harendra Singh has made some tough decisions after taking over as the men's team head coach in May 2018.   -  K. Murali Kumar

Well begun is half done, believes India chief coach Harendra Singh as the host is ready to cross swords with South Africa in its opening Pool C match of the Hockey World Cup on the sparkling new turf of the Kalinga Stadium here on Wednesday.

Harendra expressed confidence that his young side, averaging 23.4 years, would play positively. “The first match is important. It releases 40 to 50 per cent of pressure (if you win). We want full points tomorrow, but can't forget the basics and the strategy,” said Harendra, addressing media persons here on Tuesday.

“I expect their (South Africa) strikers to try and break us, but we have strategies in place. We will not compromise on playing attacking hockey and will think ahead of the opponents.”

Read: Meet the Indian hockey team

According to Harendra, India would follow different plans in pool stage. “It's a unique pool. All four teams are different. We have teams from American (Canada), African (South Africa), European (Belgium) and Asian (India) continents. We have done our homework.”

Supporting the big gaps between matches, Harendra said his team would use the breaks to return to the turf with fresh body and mind.

Harendra, who guided the Indian team to the Junior World Cup win in 2016, said his young side had forgotten the disappointing third-place finish in the Asian Games and would focus on possessing the ball.

India captain Manpreet Singh pointed out that the team had become better. “We have won Hockey World League bronze, then Champions Trophy silver. We have to show we have improved,” said Manpreet.

South Africa coach Mark Hopkins said India would be under pressure. “Being the host nation, there is pressure on India’s shoulders. We have the squad, skill set and tactics to play good hockey,” said Hopkins.