'Not a walk in the park for India at World Cup': Viren Rasquinha | Hockey - Hindustan Times
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'Not a walk in the park for India at World Cup. Our first goal is to get through a very tough pool': Viren Rasquinha

Jan 13, 2023 01:36 PM IST

Former captain of the Indian National Hockey team Viren Rasquinha isn't looking to far ahead, admitting that the immediate goal for the Indian team would be going past the 'Pool of Death' where they have been clubbed with England, Spain, and Wales.

After nearly four decades, India have entered the Men's FIH Hockey World Cup, which begins from January 13 onwards in Odisha, as an Olympic medalist, having claimed the bronze in Tokyo Olympics. The hunger to build on the team’s success will be intense as India have bagged a bronze medal in 1971, silver in 1973 and a gold in 1975, having its last podium finish at the world cup nearly 48 years ago. But former captain of the Indian National Hockey team Viren Rasquinha isn't looking to far ahead, admitting that the immediate goal for the Indian team would be going past the 'Pool of Death' where they have been clubbed with England, Spain, and Wales.

India's Harmanpreet Singh, Jarmanpreet Singh, Surender Kumar and Sreejesh Raveendran after the end of the men's hockey final match(PTI)
India's Harmanpreet Singh, Jarmanpreet Singh, Surender Kumar and Sreejesh Raveendran after the end of the men's hockey final match(PTI)

In an interaction with Star Sports, Rasquinha spoke on who the players to watch out for are in this young Indian side.

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“I think some of the key players for India at this World Cup are going to be starting with the goalkeepers and defence. Really, both goalkeepers Sreejesh and Krishan Pathak they are going to play a very important role now with this belief that if you want to win tournaments your goalkeeper has to have an excellent tournament. So there is going to be a lot of burden of responsibility on the shoulders of Sreejesh and Krishan Pathak. Of course Harmanpreet Singh in the defence has such an important role to play, he's been nominated the FIH world player of the year. He's been an excellent defender for India for the last few years. Obviously, his penalty corner conversions as well are very very important, he said.

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"In the midfield we have a strong and experienced midfielder, captain Manpreet Singh, there's Hardik who's had a great tournament. Young Vivek Sagar Prasad, he's improving by leaps and bounds. Nilakanta Sharma, he's a live wire on the pitch and I think in the forward line Abhishek is the young forward that has really impressed me for the last one year. He's made his debut a little over a year back but i will say that he's really established his place in the team, he's had an excellent Commonwealth Games and of course we have experienced players like Mandeep and Lalit Kumar Upadhyay. Overall, it is a strong balanced team and in a team sport like Hockey everyone has to do their role and if everyone plays their role in the best way possible it really enhances India's chance to get a medal here.”

Rasquinha then picked the two toughest teams at this year’s World Cup. “In world hockey, the top 10 nations of the world everyone is strong but right now I would put Olympic gold medallist Belgium and Olympic silver medallist Australia head and shoulders above the rest. I think these two teams have been very solid and extremely consistent in major tournaments so over the last few years. So, for me Belgium and Australia are definitely going to be India's toughest opponents here at the world cup,” he said.

Rasquinha also spoke on how India will fare in the tournament and how they will manage to get through a tough group stage, he said “I think for starters, India has a very tough pool I would almost call it a pool of death with England, Spain, Wales in our pool. It's definitely not a walk in the park, we've seen in the FIH Pro league India has lost to Spain, England is always is a tough team, Wales again have few players of Great Britain, they play a tough and physical game sometimes. So, in major tournaments I'm not really a big fan of looking too much ahead. Our first goal is to get through a very tough pool and we have to stay intensely focussed right from the first match where we go up against Spain.”

[Catch all the action of the 2023 Men's FIH Hockey World Cup, India vs Spain, on 13th January 2023, 7:00 PM onwards, LIVE & Exclusive on the Star Sports Network and Disney+ Hotstar]

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