Le Touquet (France): After a tumultuous few weeks, the Indian hockey team begins its Europe tour with a clash against France here on Monday.
The team, which has seen foreign coaches come and go far too often, will play two matches in France before travelling to Spain for three games.
High Performance Manager Roelant Oltmans has doubled up as the chief coach of the team after the sudden sacking of Dutchman Paul van Ass, who had just completed five months of his three-year contract.
India had recent beaten France in the World League Semifinals in Belgium where they eventually finished fourth.
Oltmans said that the team is not taking the hosts lightly. "Though we have beaten France in our previous encounters, we are not taking them lightly. They are preparing for the EuroHockey Championships, which is a very important tournament for them and they will utilise all the opportunities perfectly before the start of the tournament.
"The Indian boys are well-prepared and we have strategies to counter them. The tour will help us to understand our strategies better and the strength of the players," said Oltmans.
Speaking after a practice session, captain Sardar Singh said: "France is a good team and they have some good players. We can't take them lightly and we will play with our man-to-man strategy. In our last match in in Belgium, they stunned us with their speed and an early goal. This time, we won't give them room for surprise attacks and will try to keep the ball possession in our side.
"Some key players are back in the team which will strengthen our defence and forward line. We have some young players also, it is very good for them as well as for us to see new passion in the team."