Men’s Junior hockey WC: India aim to reach successive finals, face strong Germany in semis (Preview)

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Defending champions India will aim to make successive final appearances as they face six-time title-winners Germany in the semifinal of the FIH Junior Men’s Hockey World Cup at the Kalinga Stadium, here on Friday.

After a disappointing start to the tournament, the Indian team took their game to the next level to make it to the semifinal.

In their quarterfinal match, defenders and goalkeepers survived a wave of attacks against Belgium, while Sanjay Tiwari scored the decisive goal to help India register a hard-fought 1-0 win. On the other hand, Germany eked out a narrow 3-1 win over Spain in the shoot-out after both the teams were locked at 2-2 in regulation time, to qualify for semifinal.

Against Belgium, young Indian players showed calm and composed mindset whenever they were put under pressure. However, it won’t be easy against Germany, who would be aiming to reclaim the title after a long wait of eight years.

Notaly, Germany last won the Junior World Cup title in 2013 in New Delhi. Since then, a third place finish in the last edition in Lucknow in 2016 was their best performance.

Unlike Belgium, who played zonal, which gave India a chance to intercept passes, Germany employed man-to-man marking in their quarterfinal against Spain. If Germany plays a similar style against India, then they can force hosts to change their game. Infact, India will have to take the initiative and attack right from the start, which isn’t necessarily the team’s strong point.

Speaking ahead of the match, India chief coach Graham Reid mentioned that the team will look to be more attacking against Germany.

“I hope to play with a little bit more energy and tone tomorrow. We got a little bit defensive against Belgium and it was not our objective. So, we will try to play attacking hockey tomorrow, try to penetrate and score. That’s the name of the game,” Reid said.

The Indian coach also highlighted Germany’s strengths, saying that scoring late goals is in their DNA.

“Germany have won this tournament more than any other team in the world. You saw Masi Pfandt scoring a late goal in their Quarter Final match against Spain. Germany are known for scoring late goals. They have done it historically with the senior group. It is in their DNA. They never give up, they keep moving the ball and they keep playing with the same intensity,” he said.

Despite Germany being strong, Reid is confident that India can win the match and reach the Final. “It will be a challenging game for us but I am confident if we play our best, then we will win,” he said.

Meanwhile, Germany coach Valentin Altenburg revealed that he, along with his team, watched India’s quarter final match against Belgium from the stands to make an assessment of what to expect on Friday.

“The boys got a first impression of what to expect from India and also from the spectators at Kalinga Stadium. We really enjoyed the noise. I had goosebumps when I saw big stars like Harmanpreet Singh and Manpreet Singh cheering for the young stars. It was quite an emotional moment for me,” said Altenburg.

The German coach added that his team will have to be at their best to go past India.

“We have huge respect for India because of their attacking quality. Against Belgium, we also saw tremendous defensive skills from India against a very strong and structured Belgian team. We know we have to be very good tomorrow to have a chance to win against India,” he said.

Meanwhile, in the other semifinal on the same day, France will be up against Argentina.

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