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Hockey World Cup 2018: All you need to know about India

India will be eyeing redemption in front of the home fans. Image: Twitter

Bengaluru, November 27: The 14th Men's Hockey World Cup beginning at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar presents hosts India the best chance to end the 43-year-long trophy drought.

The once mighty Indians who taught the rest of the world how to play hockey has fallen from those lofty standards and the fact that they have not won the World Cup since 1975 is a pointer in the case.

Since then, India has seen countries from Europe and rest of the world giving them back a taste of their own medicine.

After that epochal triumph against arch-rivals Pakistan in the 1975 World Cup final in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which till date remains the country's only victory in the competition, India have come nowhere near to winning the World Cup with the fifth-place finishes at the 1982 and 1994 editions being the next best.

Come Wednesday (November 28), the Men in Blue will be eyeing redemption in front of the home fans. But their job is easier said than done as India are drawn in Group C along with Canada, Belgium and South Africa, their opponent in the first match.

They then take on Belgium on Sunday (December 2) before winding up their group engagements on December 8 against Canada.

The group topper directly qualifies for the quarterfinals while the second and third-placed teams enter the crossover play-offs.

Here does a team-by-team analysis of Group C

India (FIH ranking 5)

India (FIH ranking 5)

The Manpreet Singh-led squad is high on confidence, especially after being declared as joint winners of the Asian Champions Trophy with Pakistan held in Oman. The inability to finish matches has always been India's bane.

Coach Harendra Singh who replaced Dutchman Sjoerd Marijne has been a positive influence on the squad so far. Manpreet is a solid presence in the midfield while the onus will be on senior players like goalkeeper and former captain PR Sreejesh, defender Birender Lakra and forward Akashdeep Singh to deliver the goods.

Belgium (FIH rank 3)

Belgium (FIH rank 3)

The Olympic and European silver medallists pose the toughest challenge for India in the group. With only the group winner earning a direct entry into the quarterfinals, the India vs Belgium match will be very crucial.

Belgium will heavily rely on Arthur Van Doren , who bagged the FIH Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year awards. Belgium have experience and talent and that should hold them in stead.

Belgium had defeated India when the two sides met last time in a crunch knockout fixture - the 2016 Rio Olympics quarterfinals - and the Red Lions will be keen to continue their domination.

Canada (FIH ranking 11)

Canada (FIH ranking 11)

They may be ranked much below India and Belgium, but you just cannot write off Canada. The fact that they qualified for the World Cup after beating India and finishing ahead of them at the Hockey World League Round 3 in London, 2017 prove that they are no pushovers.

Topping the table may not be possible for the Canadians, but a play-off spot is well within their reach and they are capable of upsets on their day.

South Africa (FIH ranking 15)

South Africa (FIH ranking 15)

They may be the underdogs of the group, but they have always delivered when it mattered the most.

The team has often punched above its weight in important tournaments and the World Cup may be the right occasion to do it once again.

South Africa has also a few brownie points to settle after the national olympic association barred it from competing at the Rio Games despite making the qualifying cut.

Opening day fixtures

5pm: Belgium vs Canada

7pm: India vs South Africa

Live on Star Sports Network/Doordarshan

Live streaming on Hotstar

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Story first published: Tuesday, November 27, 2018, 15:44 [IST]
Other articles published on Nov 27, 2018