Hockey News: Are Team India good enough to win the 2023 World Cup?
India are heading towards a new edition of the World Cup, where they will get the chance to compensate for a disappointing loss to the Netherlands in the 2018 Hockey World Cup at Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar.
The quadrennial event will host its newest edition at the same venue along with Rourkela's Birsa Munda Stadium. The tournament will take off on January 13, 2023, and India have listed an 18-member squad.
The 16-team tournament will feature all the heavyweights in world hockey, with India drawn in Pool D alongside England, Wales, and Spain. The Blue Tigers want to end their 47-year-old trophy drought, having won their first and only title at the 1975 Hockey World Cup held in Malaysia.
Is the team good enough to win the title? Let's find out.
The goalkeeping department is impressive, with former Indian captain PR Sreejesh at the helm and his junior Krishan B Pathak ready to cause upsets in the upcoming World Cup.
Hockey India's recent goalkeeping camp led by top-notch goalkeeping coach Dennis Van de Pol was held to prepare goalkeepers right before the event started.
It could be Sreejesh's last World Cup, so he is expected to yield his best performance to date. He could replicate his performance in the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 to secure a podium finish for India.
The defence department is led by reliable players like skipper Harmanpreet Singh and his deputy Amit Rohidas. Varun Kumar from Punjab, who has made occasional appearances for India, is another man to watch out for.
He could fill up the position of the second drag-flicker too. Meanwhile, Nilam Sanjeep Xess's selection is questionable, and the remaining two defenders - Surender Kumar and Jarmanpreet Singh - have brought glory to India.
Drag-flicker Jugraj Singh is a replacement player this time, along with Rajkumar Pal. If India keeps a check on their errors, they will avoid a situation similar to the 2018 HWC quarter-finals, where they lost due to constant fouls.
Former Indian captain Manpreet Singh secures the midfield, and Vivek Sagar Prasad's comeback will additionally provide more strength to the squad.
India have yet to call for Sumit this time but can expect to see an in-form Hardik on the flanks who can bombard the forwards with an outstanding stock of through balls.
Besides Akashdeep, who will switch from a forward to a midfielder, the others look comfortably set. Hardik and Manpreet could make things easier for the forwards if they are in their top form. Their partnership led the team to fantastic victories in the last few FIH Pro League matches.
Due to the relative newness of the frontline, India could be more robust in this department. Sukhjeet and Abhishek debuted this year, while Lalit is recovering from a knee injury. The latter has earned Graham Reid's trust, having scored ten goals in 24 matches.
All hopes are pinned on Mandeep Singh, who needs four more goals to complete 100 for the Indian team there. He is known for being prolific inside the shooting circle and attacking defenders with sharp stickwork.
With Mandeep and Lalit at the helm, India could pull off a terrific run.
Can India create history at home?
India have played in the Kalinga Stadium several times but have never plied their trade in Sundargarh.
The Indian team are in Rourkela practising and readjusting to the space before taking on Max Caldas' Spain on January 13 at the Birsa Munda Hockey Stadium. They will encounter England and Wales on January 15 and 19, 2023, respectively.
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