KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 11: Two-time champions India will need to raise their game by a few notches while curbing complacency during their quarter-final encounter against a formidable Netherlands in the men’s Junior World Cup hockey tournament here on Tuesday.
India won the tournament twice in 2001 in Hobart, Australia and at home in Lucknow in 2016. Besides they were runners-up once way back in 1997 in Milton Keyes, England, losing 2-3 against Australia in the final.
The Indians started the tournament on a bright note, beating Korea 4-1 and then suffered a 1-4 defeat at the hands of Spain before getting their acts together to thrash Canada 10-1 in their final pool match.
India sealed their quarterfinal place as the second-placed team from Pool C with two wins out of three games behind Spain, who had an all-win record.
The Netherlands, on the other hand, finished atop Pool D with two wins and a draw.
Having started off on a positive note, the Indians were taken to the cleaners by Spain, who relied on crisp, short passes to create spaces in the Indian defence which worked perfectly for them.
So, the Indian team will have to be on its toes against a clinical side like the Netherlands, which is capable of breaching any defence with its structured hockey.
The Indians will also have to do away of their habit of conceding unnecessary penalty corners when put under pressure.
A big win against Canada should act as a confidence booster for India going into Tuesday’s match, a fact which skipper Uttam Singh agreed.
“We have played some good hockey in this World Cup. Coming off a big 10-1 win certainly boosts our confidence going into the knockout stages. We’ll look to put our best foot forward and play to the best of our ability like we always do,” he said.
India coach CR Kumar said his players are ready to tackle whatever comes in their way.
“The players are in a good space and are ready to take on whatever is thrown at them. We’ll continue to take this tournament one match at a time.
“Yes, the quarterfinal is a big match but it’s nothing the boys aren’t prepared for.”
The semifinals and final will be held on Thursday and Saturday. (PTI)