New Delhi: Rising hockey star Manpreet Singh, who will be leading the 18-member Indian team in the 18-nation Junior World Cup, said Wednesday that the first match against the Netherlands will be crucial.
Manpreet, who was announced as the captain Wednesday at a glittering ceremony organised by Hockey India (HI), feels that the first match could change things for India.
"We are well prepared and the focus is on the match against Holland. We are practicing keeping in mind the challenge that will be posed by Holland. We are putting a lot of emphasis on penalty corner conversion and playing attacking game. We will get good results," Manpreet said.
Manpreet said that Germany, Australia and Argentina will pose a big challenge for India.
Instead of making tall promises, Manpreet said the team will take one match at a time.
"We will do well, but I don`t make any tall promises. We will go step by step. The immediate target is to do well against Holland. I have learnt a lot of things playing with the senior team and will try to apply those things," he said.
Though it is a junior World Cup, all the 18 boys have played with the senior team and in between they have played 324 international matches.
Senior India player Kothajit Singh, 20, is the most experienced with 89 international matches while Manpreet has the experience of 85 matches. Defender Amit Rohidas will be Manpreet`s deputy.
Ramandeep Singh, who made his debut in the Asia Cup, has also found a place in the side while talented forward Affan Yousuf has been kept in the stand bys.
Coach Gregg Clarke said with just a week left, the whole team was excited for the tournament.
"Playing a World Cup at home will be a memorable occasion for the players. We have prepared well and look forward taking on the world`s best," the South African said.
India are in pool C with the Netherlands, South Korea, Canada. Pool A features Germany, Pakistan, Belgium and Egypt while Australia, Spain, Argentina and France are in pool B. England, New Zealand, South Africa and Malaysia make up group D.
India play the Netherlands in its first match slated for Dec 6 followed by matches against Canada (Dec 7) and South Korea (Dec 10).
It's incredible, amazing, I feel goofy.