Come Thursday, India will play their most significant match in recent times as a win against the Netherlands in the quarter-finals will propel them to the last-four of the hockey World Cup — their first since the 1975 edition, which they won.
“We are ready. We have done our homework on Dutch aggression. Whatever challenge they throw at us, we are ready to solve it. They love attacking hockey and so do we. It will be an equal contest. Tomorrow, you can’t afford to miss even 25% chances, either score or get a penalty corner,” said India coach Harendra Singh.
World No 4 Netherlands, who reached the final of the last World Cup, have been solid here. Apart from the 1-4 blip against Germany, the three-time winners have crushed Pakistan, Malaysia and Canada, controlling proceedings in each contest and not allowing opponents to play freely.
To give an idea of their dominance, the Max Caldas-coached side has scored 17 goals against these three tricky opponents and conceded only one. However, two things might not go in their favour — lack of rest and a partisan crowd.
Having taken the crossover route (they beat Canada 5-0), Netherlands will end up playing three games in five days. The world No 4 side will also be without injured defender Sander de Wijn, who will be replaced by Joep de Mol.
“The pressure isn’t that much on us, India have to play in front of 15,000 people. At the same time, because of our history, there is always some pressure on us. We realise the expectations are high. But we are ready. It’s tough for us to lose an important player. He was an asset,” said Seve van Ass.
The hosts, on the other hand, have got ample rest. By virtue of qualifying directly for the quarters, the Manpreet Singh-led team got a five-day break.
But history shows, world No 5 India have a dismal record against the Netherlands in world cups, having lost all six games they have played against them. However, India will draw heart from the 1-1 draw against the Netherlands in the Champions Trophy in June, Harendra’s first assignment as India coach. India had also made a cleansweep of the two-Test series in the Netherlands in August 2017. However, this is a different tournament.
“Holland is a very good team but we have also done well against them. During Champions Trophy, we drew with them. Earlier too we have beaten them. This will be a tough match and whoever takes chances will win,” said Manpreet.
Come Thursday, Harendra’s boys will be expected to do what no other Indian team has done since 1975.
First Published: Dec 13, 2018 09:06 IST
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