Bhubaneswar, 23 November: Defending champion India start favourite against France as they commence their campaign to retain the title at the Junior Hockey World Cup here on Wednesday.
This is the third consecutive time that India is hosting the tournament, which took place in New Delhi in 2013 and in Lucknow in 2016.
In this 16-nation tournament, India is grouped in Pool B along with Canada, France and Poland.
Pool A comprises Belgium, Malaysia, South Africa and Chile.
Pool C includes the Netherlands, Spain, Korea and the United States while Germany, Argentina, Pakistan and Egypt are in Pool D.
Each team will play three matches during the league stage over a period of five days.
This will be followed by a cross-over match, due to take place on 30 November, followed by knockout matches from 1 December, and the final is slated for 5th December.
“It’s always difficult with the first game where you do not have too much knowledge of the opposition. Both teams are in the same boat. So, it’s exciting as well,” said the Indian team’s chief coach Graham Reid.
“When we went to Europe earlier this year, we understood playing international matches is very different from playing internal matches. Our practice matches here against The Netherlands, Germany and the USA gave us really good competition to face. ” he opined.
“We do not read too much into those as people try different things. No one gives away too much. Still, it’s nice to get a sense of the teams and it gave us videos to analyze of the things we need to learn and change,” Reid added.
“Chief Coach Graham Reid always tells us to put the team first. I have learned this playing at the big stage and I have implemented the same here. We have to maintain our bonds as a team on the field and off the field, and we have to stay united. Our bonds will help us in getting good results in the tournament,” said skipper Vivek Sagar Prasad.
France Head Coach Aymeric Bergamo also spoke to the media in the pre-match virtual press conference, and he explained how his young team have prepared for the match against the defending Champions India.
“Our preparation was short because of the Covid situation. We arrived early here, so we played two games – against The USA and Chile. They were good games for us, so we feel we are ready for tomorrow,” he said.
“We are ready to play our first game. It was important for us to play these practice games to get into the game mindset. So, we feel we are ready,” France Captain Timothee Clement added.