Eyes firmly set on gold, last year’s bronze medallist India will take on hosts Malaysia in the opening match of the eighth Sultan of Johor Cup junior hockey tournament on Saturday.
The team led by the talented Mandeep Mor will look to start the prestigious tournament on a winning note.
“It is always important to begin the tournament with a win as it boosts the confidence and motivates the team to build on their performance as the event progresses,” said coach Jude Felix.
“But having said that, many players will also be playing their first international match and they must shake off the initial jitters to play their natural game.”
In the previous edition, India had beaten Malaysia 2-1 in a closely fought round-robin match.
But in the bronze medal clash, India had improved their performance by leaps and bounds to beat the hosts convincingly by a 4-0 margin.
“Playing the hosts in the first match is never easy because of the home support. But I am confident if these boys play their natural game, we should do well,” said a confident Felix.
After Malaysia, India will play New Zealand on Sunday and Japan on October 9 before clashing with defending champions Australia on October 10 and Great Britain on October 12.
“According to me it’s never about who we play but how well we play and we will go into the tournament with the mind set to play our best hockey,” Felix said.
“We have prepared well for this tournament and the players are certainly looking forward to the first match, from there on we will take one match at a time,” he added.