London, June 12 (IANS) India will aim to continue their impressive performance in the Hockey Champions Trophy when they face an under-pressure Belgium side at the Lee Valley Hockey Centre here on Monday.
India are second in the pool stage following a 3-3 draw against defending champions Germany and a 2-1 win over Britain. Both India and Australia have four points each but the reigning world champions are ahead on better goal difference.
World No.7 India come into the fifth-ranked Belgium game with two impressive performances. The Roelant Oltmans-coached side on Friday began their campaign with a brilliant performance against Germany, even though it was a 3-3 draw. India had a 3-1 lead but the two-time Olympic champions came back strong to force a draw.
In the second game, India went up 2-0 before Britain pulled one back but the former held on to seal the win.
The defensive structure put up by Oltmans has earned praises from many experts and it will be another test for the likes of goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh and the defenders — V.R. Raghunath, Harmanpreet Singh, Surender Kumar and Kothajit Singh.
Harmanpreet has scored a penalty corner and a penalty stroke, while Raghunath struck in the first game against the Germans.
Despite the absence of Sardar Singh, India have a strong array of midfielders in Manpreet Singh, Dharamvir Singh, Danish Mujtaba and Chinglensana Singh.
They have played a perfect foil to the attackers. S.V. Sunil is very good form and with his speed, he has been assisting the central strikers with numerous inroads into the rival circle.
Young Mandeep Singh has already scored two goals and his ability to be in the best of positions at the right time is coming to the fore. Akashdeep Singh has looked slightly off-colour but given the talent, he can spring into life. Other forwards in the squad are Nikkin Thimmiah and Talwinder singh.
After the conclusion of the game against Britain, Indian coach Oltmans said the team has surprised him.
“I’ve been in India three years now and I hope that people see that we are improving. That for me is the most important thing, that the team is getting better,” he said.
“Overall, we saw some great performances from some young players. The team is surprising me.”
Belgium come into the match following an 0-2 upset loss against South Korea and a 4-4 draw against Germany. In the match against Germany, they had a 4-2 lead before the title holders scored twice between the 50th and 55th minute.
Belgium are known as an attacking unit with the likes of Florent van Aubel, Tanguy Cosyns, Cedric Charlier, Simon Gougnard among the frontmen.
Captain John-john Dohmen marshals the Belgian midfield, while other in the flanks are Felix Denayer, Jerome Truyens and Thomas Briels.