Handed a relatively easy draw in the World Cup, the Indian hockey team head coach Sjoerd Marijne emphasised on the importance of winning every single match and not be complacent about their opponents.
The hosts have been clubbed with Olympic silver medallists Belgium, Canada and South Africa in a favourable Pool C.
“It is the World Cup and every team will come with the intention of winning. So, we can never say we are in a favourable pool or a tough pool. We need to respect every opponent and World Rankings don’t matter in a World Cup,” said Marijne.
“We need to focus on ourselves and ensure we win every single match if we want to win the Cup,” he added.
India will start their campaign against South Africa on November 28 and play their second match on December 2 against Belgium. The hosts will play Canada, against whom they had lost 2-3 in the Hockey World League semifinal in London last year, in their final Pool C match on December 8.
“Belgium is one of the strongest teams in the world and we have shown that we can beat them (at the World League Final Bhubaneswar in 2017 and in the recent New Zealand Tour). In December too, it will be a close match and people in Bhubaneswar will love it. But like I said, we can’t be complacent about any team,” the 43-year-old said.
The Indian Team is presently in Ipoh, Malaysia for the 27th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup where they play Argentina in their opening match on Saturday.
While the team’s focus is on performing well at this coveted event, Marijne said, his team will need to peak in every major tournament this year.
“There are many more tournaments this year where the team will need to peak and bring out their best performance. We are not looking at peaking at just one particular tournament but there is Asian Games and also Champions Trophy before the World Cup. Every tournament we need to be at our best and we use that performance as a stepping stone for the next one,” he said.
The Dutchman further added that the team’s Scientific Advisor Robin Arkell has already worked out a plan that ensures players start every tournament with optimum fitness level.
“It is normal in hockey that you play more tournaments in a year and with our strength and conditioning coach, we have made a plan for the whole year that ensures players start with good fitness at every tournament.
“Besides, we also need to control mental fitness because staying fresh in the mind is something we must not underestimate,” the coach said.