Impressive 13-1 win over Canada in their second clash of the FIH Junior Hockey World Cup may have put the Indian campaign back on the track but the hosts are not out of the woods as they face the prospect of running into a tough opponent in the knockout stages.
With one win and one defeat, India are now placed second in the pool ahead of Poland, who lost to France earlier on the day, on goal difference and will take on the Polish in their last league match on Saturday to decide the second spot in Pool B behind group leaders France, who won both their games.
Finishing second in the Pool would mean India will most probably run into top seed Belgium, who are likely to top Pool A, in the quarterfinals.
“Yes, that’s what losing the first game means for us. But we can’t do anything about that now. If we have to win back-to-back titles, we will have to beat every team henceforth,” said head coach Graham Reid after Thursday’s match. “But we will not like to think ahead of us, we have a match against Poland before that and that’s what we will be thinking about. We have to win that before we think about the next stage,” Reid added.
He said that the defeat against France was a learning experience for his team as they realised the importance of being at their best for every match.
“It is a learning experience for the boys — every match is one experience. That’s what I have always been telling the senior players as well. That’s our experience so far,” said Reid who guided India to a bronze medal in the Tokyo Olympics earlier this year.
Reid said the lopsided results in the tournament on Thursday with teams scoring big wins was because of lack of international matches for the teams in the last year and half. Because of withdrawal by some top teams, weaker teams have come in replacement and they have proved even weaker due to disrupted preparations.
He was satisfied that his boys were creating enough scoring opportunities but were unable to capitalise on them.
Reid said he was enjoying the problem of plenty caused by the presence of four penalty corner experts in the junior squad but refused to say what junior team vice-captain Sanjay has to do to get into the senior team.