Rourkela: The anticipation among hockey fans in India is at an all-time high as the Indian Men’s Hockey Team start their FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup 2023 Bhubaneswar-Rourkela campaign against Spain on Friday at the stellar new Birsa Munda Hockey Stadium.
Led by star drag-flicker Harmanpreet Singh, the Indian Men’s Hockey Team is geared up for a close contest against Spain.
Statistically speaking, India has registered 14 wins against the Spain Men’s Hockey Team till date, while they lost 11 and drew five.
Both teams have also recently played two matches in the FIH Hockey Pro League where the Spain Men’s Hockey Team won the first encounter 3-2, while India registered a 3-1 (2-2) win in a shootout in the second match.
The Indian Captain was brimming with confidence ahead of the opening match, which will be played in front of a packed Rourkela audience, and stated that it will be important to get off on a winning note.
Harmanpreet said, “India and Spain played exciting matches in the FIH Hockey Pro League a few months back. We played aggressive and tactical hockey in those matches and our strategy is to continue the way we have been performing in the build-up to the tournament.”
The team is extremely determined to do well and end the World Cup jinx. Ahead of the Olympic Games too, every single player in the team believed that we could finish on the podium and this time too, we began the tournament with that same enthusiasm and determination.
Being entrusted with the responsibility of leading the team in the marquee event, Harmanpreet said he enjoys the responsibility and also calls on advice from senior compatriots in the leadership group.
“I feel no pressure to lead the side as I know there are players with enough experience whom I can turn to when needed, also the way we have prepared gives us confidence of a good show, ” he said.
The team also played two practice matches against New Zealand and Netherlands, and were ready for the challenge.”
Meanwhile, Chief Coach of the Indian Men’s Hockey Team Graham Reid praised the atmosphere in Rourkela and said that there is a sense of excitement around among his players as well ahead of the big tournament.
“The new stadium and facilities here in Rourkela are amazing. Everything feels great and the players are excited for the first match of the tournament.
All the players are feeling positive about the tournament and we will look to do what we have been doing for the last few months,” he said.
On the other hand, the Spanish team, who are ranked eighth in the FIH World Rankings, will look to cause an upset against the home team.
They are confident after their display against India in the FIH Hockey Pro League and Head Coach Max Caldas asserted it will certainly help the team to play aggressive hockey in their opening match of the tournament.
“We did well against India in the FIH Hockey Pro League and it certainly gives us confidence that our team can compete with them on their own turf.
It gives us a different feeling in a big tournament like FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup 2023 Bhubaneswar-Rourkela,” commented Caldas.
“We are confident in ourselves that we produce good results against top teams in the tournament and we will look to do it against India as well, ” he said, adding that our players have to be thorough in what they do in the match and positive results will follow.”
Spain’s Captain Alvaro Iglesias is also confident of a good show against the Indian Men’s Hockey Team and praised his players for their qualities.
Iglesias said, “Playing against India in their home is the most exciting game you can play. We have a great team and we all push each other to be the best version of ourselves. I have really great players around me; they are really good, fast and professional.”
“We saw that last year when we played top teams like India and New Zealand. All of us are ready for this FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup 2023 Bhubaneswar-Rourkela and we will look to win the first game and have a great start to the tournament,” he concluded.
The match between Indian Men’s Hockey Team and Spain will be played on January 13 at 1900 hrs IST. The matches will be telecast live on Star Sports and Disney+ Hotstar.