With just three weeks to go for the start of the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup 2023 Bhubaneswar-Rourkela, Dutch drag-flick expert Bram Lomans has picked hosts India among the favourites to win their second title to add to the one they bagged in 1975.
Australia, Belgium, Netherlands, India, Argentina, Germany, New Zealand, England, France, Korea, Malaysia, Spain, South Africa, Japan, Chile, and Wales are the 16 teams that will be competing in the tournament, which is set to begin on January 13.
Lomans, who will be training the Indian drag-flickers in a special camp ahead of the mega event, on Monday revealed his favourites for the tournament.
“I think if India can cope with the enormous pressure, and if the players do not get too excited, they have a really good chance to win. India have got good strikers, good corner-takers, and a good goalkeeper. So they have all the ingredients to go far,” the former Netherlands international said.
“If they get too excited or emotional, then it can fall apart. But if they can keep their focus, then they are one of the biggest candidates, along with Australia. The Netherlands are also always good. They have improved a lot in the past few tournaments, so I expect them to do well. You also have Belgium, Argentina, and England are also doing reasonably well. So, there are at least six-seven teams who might be on top. It will be extremely interesting because it is tight and that is what hockey needs,” Lomans added.
India are in Group D, alongside Spain, England, and Wales in the 16-team tournament.
Lomans, who is credited with popularising drag-flicking in the late 1990s, is currently in India for a special camp with the Indian men’s hockey team at the SAI Centre in Bengaluru.
Lomans lauded Indian drag-flicker Harmanpreet Singh and explained why he is so successful.
“Harmanpreet Singh has a relaxed attitude about him. He is really good because he knows his strengths and his qualities and he just goes for it. He does not stress about it too much when he is taking a penalty corner, even though I am sure the pressure will be enormous on him. But he has that calmness around him that helps him get the job done,” Lomans was quoted as saying by Hockey India in a release on Monday.
The former Dutch penalty corner specialist further added that India have a strong pool of young drag-flickers which will help the team at the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup 2023 Bhubaneswar-Rourkela.
“The biggest strength of the current Indian team is that they have 4-5 really good penalty corner takers who can score. If they all can chip in, it will take the pressure off Harmanpreet Singh. The quality is high and I am honoured I can help them out. There are also some really good talents at the U-21 camp, who can come up in the future,” he said.