Presence of ever-improving Spain in India’s pool will make even the league stage of the FIH Men's Hockey World Cup 2023 very challenging, chief coach Graham Reid said on Friday, adding that staying in the moment will be key to the home team's success. (More Hockey News)
World No.5 India are placed in a tough Pool D alongside England (world No. 6), Spain (world No.8) and Wales in the showpiece event to be jointly hosted by Bhubaneswar and Rourkela from January 13 to 29 next year.
The Indians drew 4-4 against England and beat Wales 4-1 en route to a silver medal-winning effort in this year's Birmingham Commonwealth Games.
“The pools in the FIH Hockey World Cup and the Olympics are always difficult. Every team is there to win. We just played England and Wales in the Birmingham Commonwealth Games and the games were of the highest quality,” Reid said in a Hockey India release.
“To top that off with Spain who have been improving in the last 12 months will make the first-round games very difficult. England are a world-class team and they are playing a very good brand of hockey at the moment. But so are we and the important part about the FIH World Cup is that we have to keep our minds in the moment and focus on each aspect of the game,” he added.
Before the marquee event, India will get to play Spain in the FIH Pro League 2022-23 season at the Kalinga Stadium on October 30 and November 6.
“It always swings and roundabouts when you play games against future opponents in big tournaments. Do you try strategies that you may want to use in the World Cup or do you show nothing and miss that opportunity? They can learn as much about you as as you can learn about them,” Reid said about the double-header.
India failed to cross the quarterfinal hurdles in the last World Cup, which was also hosted by Bhubaneswar's Kalinga Stadium in 2018. But this time around, Reid is hopeful of improving their past record.
“It is a very different team than it was four years ago, with different experiences and some different personnel. We are looking forward to the World Cup and playing in front of our home crowd,” the Australian said.
Pool A comprises Australia, Argentina, France and South Africa, while reigning world champions Belgium, Germany, South Korea and Japan are placed in Pool B. The Netherlands, Chile, Malaysia and New Zealand complete Pool C in the 16-team tournament.
The pool winners will advance directly to the quarterfinals, while the teams placed second and third will have to play crossover matches to progress.