Champions Trophy: India look to settle scores with Belgium
Melbourne: India will have revenge on mind but injuries remain a worry for the team as it takes on Belgium in the quarterfinal clash of the Champions Trophy hockey tournament on Thursday.
After topping Pool A courtesy their two wins and the number of goals they scored in the preliminary league, India will play Pool B`s bottom-placed side Belgium as the new format devised by the International Hockey Federation (FIH) allows all eight teams to move from the preliminary league into the knockout rounds.
India and Germany, who yesterday won the encounter between these two teams, finished on six points each, but India took the top slot due to a better goal-difference.
India are still rankled by the Champions Challenge final of last year when they blew away a two-goal lead in the closing stages to lose the contest and pave the way for Belgium to make their maiden appearance in the elite Champions Trophy.
Belgium went on to repeat their victory when the two teams met again in the preliminary group of this year`s Olympic Games at London, where eight-time gold medallists India finished at the bottom of the 12-team competition.
"We are eager to win this match to settle a score," said India coach Michael Nobbs, whose outfit is playing in the Champions Trophy after getting one of the two wildcards handed by the FIH.
Nobbs said the Indian players want to get over the shattering loss at the Champions Challenge, which would have secured India a place in the Champions Trophy by right, instead of depending on the wildcard gifted by the FIH.
"Belgium did not win the Champions Challenge final, we lost it. The match was all but ours before we blew it up in the last couple of minutes," said Nobbs, who gave his players a day off ahead of the quarterfinal.
Most of the Indian team members today went sight-seeing while others rested at the hotel to recuperate from the injuries.
India have left out several seasoned players from the Champions Trophy team, as did Olympic champions Germany and England, but Belgium have brought their best side.
Belgium lost all their group matches, but gave a glimpse of their ability yesterday when they pushed Olympic silver medallists Netherlands hard before the Dutch emerged with a 5-4 victory in the tournament`s highest-scoring game so far.
Nobbs said the Indian team is shaping into a fine side.
"We`re playing well as a team and the results are showing it," he said.
"We`re as good as any other team in this tournament. The boys are eager to go into the contest," Nobbs said, still a bit concerned with the effect of the injuries sustained by three Indian players.
Nobbs said captain Sardar Singh played yesterday with a stiff shoulder, while midfielder Manpreet Singh has stitches on and around his ear cartridge. But he is confident both will be playing in the crucial quarterfinal fixture.
Nobbs said striker SV Sunil`s hamstring had improved a lot and he was considering fielding the right-wing striker for the crucial knock-out round.
Australia, gold medal winners of the last four Champions Trophy, will be seeking to stay on course when they meet England in the quarterfinals tomorrow, while Olympic champions Germany will take on Pakistan.
Olympic silver medallists Netherlands are pitted against New Zealand in the other quarterfinal.