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India among 16 teams ready for Hockey Men's Junior World Cup 2021

November 23, 2021 10:13 AM

Bhubaneswar, The stage is all set here for the sixteen teams including defending champions to contest for the top honours at the 2021 FIH Odisha Hockey Men's Junior World Cup scheduled to kickstart on November 24.

Placed in Group B along with Canada, France and Poland, Team India Captain Vivek Sagar Prasad is looking to retain the prestigious trophy as they take centre stage on the home turf.

"Our team became the Champions in 2016 and now our team's aim is to continue to perform in a similar manner," Vivek, who was part of India's historic bronze-medal winning performance at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, told Hockey India.

The going for the team has been tough, as the players have not got overseas match practice due to Covid pandemic, but they played some practice matches against the senior team here, which were quite valuable.

Since arriving in Bhubaneswar, Team India Head Coach Graham Reid said the players are getting used to the iconic Kalinga Hockey Stadium and getting to train before they start off.

The teams have been divided in pools, who will be aiming to finish in the top half as the top two teams from each pool will qualify for the Quarter Final of the tournament.

In Pool A, European heavyweights Belgium will face off against Malaysia, Chile and South Africa. "India will be, of course, a force to watch playing at home with the qualities they have," Belgium Coach Jeroen Baart said on arrival.

Speaking on the prospect of playing at the iconic Kalinga Stadium, Malaysia Head Coach Wallace Tan said, "Our team is very excited to play at the Kalinga Stadium as it is a very big and respected stadium. Many big tournaments have been held here, and many legends have played here, so it will be an honour to play here."

South Africa Head Coach Sihle Ntuli picked Belgium to be the toughest team in the group stage. "In our group, we have Malaysia, Belgium and Chile. I would think Belgium would be our toughest opponent. They are previous finalists, so we know it will be a difficult game. But we also think all the games will be difficult," he said.

Chile Captain Nicolás Abujatum said, "We were a part of the Pan-American Championship, which was a big part of our preparations. We are excited to play at Kalinga Stadium, as most of us have not played in such a great stadium."

"Our preparation for the event was not very long. The weather in Poland is completely different, it is very cold, especially in winters. But we tried to do the best we could do, and I think we will play our best hockey here," Poland Head Coach Jacek Adrian said.

"We are really excited, we are looking forward to play in the Mecca for hockey in the world, and the stadium is really impressive. So, we are looking forward to getting a few games in there," Canada Captain Christopher Tardif added.

"This is the biggest competition for our young players. The entire world will be here, with different styles of playing. Every young hockey player dreams to make it and as the Head Coach, I wish, with my staff, to have the best team possible to represent our country," France Head Coach Aymeric Bergamo said.

Netherlands, Spain, Korea and USA will lock horns in Pool C.

"We have never played in such a big stadium. It's a shame people cannot come and watch the games. We are very excited to play here in the Kalinga Stadium," Netherlands Captain Silas Lageman added.

USA Head Coach Pat Harris spoke on the hockey culture in India after reaching Bhubaneswar. "To the world, India has a very strong hockey culture with a big hockey stadium. This competition will be a great stepping stone for us in our process of developing hockey further," he said.

Team Spain arrived on Sunday, and the head coach Alejandro Siri said that he believes it will be an open tournament with no team as the favourites as of now to win the title. "I think there is no candidate who is favourite as all teams are new and well-prepared. We have to look during the tournament which team is going well and which team is struggling. It is an open tournament, and we have to perform well in every game," he said.

"Our players do not have much experience of playing in such a big stadium, just like most players from all teams, but we are confident we will get better as the tournament progresses," Korea Captain Soung Min Bae said.

Pool D will see Germany, Pakistan, Egypt and Argentina face off against each other.

"We are extremely excited to come and play here in Bhubaneswar in such a big stadium. Kalinga Stadium is one of the finest hockey stadiums in the world," Valentin Altenburg, Germany Head Coach said.

Pakistan Head Coach Danish Kaleem praised the Odisha State Government for working towards increasing the popularity of hockey across nations. "I am very happy with the work done by Odisha State Government and the Hon’ble Chief Minister Shri Naveen Patnaik for the work that they have done in promoting hockey all over the world. We are excited to compete in the tournament as it will help in increasing the popularity of the sport," he said.

“It was a bit difficult for us to prepare for this tournament due to the long period of inactivity, but we will be counting on our experience at the Youth Olympics to come in handy for us at this big stage,” said Argentina Head Coach Lucas Rey.

Belgium will play against South Africa in the first game of the FIH Odisha Hockey Men's Junior World Cup Bhubaneswar 2021 on 24 November. India will begin their campaign on the same day against France at 20.00 hrs IST.

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