Beat Belgium, top the pool for a shot at World Cup: John
New Delhi, November 22
Hoping to regain the title after 43 years, India will have to top their pool to have a realistic chance of breaking their World Cup jinx, said High Performance Director David John.
Ranked fifth, India are placed in Pool C alongside current Olympics silver medallist and world No. 3 Belgium, South Africa and Canada. John said India will need to beat Belgium in the pool stages to avoid the cross-over round and directly qualify for the quarterfinals to enhance their chances.
“We have a very balanced team and conditions are also in our favour. There are tremendous expectations from us and we know that. But we need to top our pool. We need to beat Belgium and avoid cross-overs,” John said.
India will open their campaign against South Africa on November 28 before squaring off against Belgium and Canada on October 2 and October 8, respectively.
Citing an example from the women’s World Cup where India had to play the crossovers after finishing third in their pool, the High Performance Director said an extra game plays a big part in such a long tournament. “So we need to avoid cross-overs and win against Belgium,” he said. Only last month, John was dropped from the men’s senior selection panel for showing “bias” against the senior players and preferring the juniors, but Hockey India selectors seemed to have heeded to the Australian’s views while selecting the World Cup side. “It’s not a young team, it’s a mixture of youth and experience. We now have depth in the side. We do not have Rupinder but Varun (Kumar) is there to take his place. Dilpreet (Singh) has come of age in the absence of Ramandeep. So we now have the bench strength,” John said. Asked about the bias allegation, John only said: “We need to look forward and create adequate bench strength keeping in mind the 2020 Olympics.”