India would aim to put behind the disappointment of a first-leg final loss when they open their campaign against hosts New Zealand in the second leg of the Four Nations Invitational Hockey Tournament.
In the first leg of the tournament, India got off to a good start with 6-0 win against Japan but lost 0-2 to Belgium in the following match. Winning 3-1 against hosts New Zealand, who had beaten Belgium 5-4 in their first match, put the Manpreet Singh-led Indian team into the final.
India topped the pool table with a total of nine goals, having conceded only three in the pool stage while Belgium scored ten goals but conceded six.
“As a team, we have made progress match after match. We had four young players make their debut and even scored in matches, which is good,” said chief coach Sjoerd Marijne about the team's performance in the first leg.
“We came close to beating Olympic silver medallist Belgium which gives us a lot of confidence going into an important calendar year for hockey,” he added.
Though his team lost a closely-contested final 1-2 to Belgium, Marijne felt the result was positive.
“You must understand that Belgium is here with their complete squad and they are one of the best teams in the world. Competing with them with the team we have here is still a huge step forward,” he said.
“The fact that the youngsters have shown confidence in playing the world No. 3-ranked side gives me more options as a coach and it is this competition within the team which will help us grow,” he added.
Though there are positives Marijne derives from the team’s outing in Tauranga, he pointed out that missed opportunities continue to dent his side’s chances.
“For me, the most important is converting the chances into goals. We create enough opportunities but that’s not enough. We must score more goals,” he asserted on the eve of their opening match in Hamilton.
Skipper Manpreet Singh stated that the team is eager to put up an improved performance here.
“Doing well against a team like Belgium will no doubt give us the confidence for future matches but winning against them will be a big boost to young players.
“To be able to do that, there are areas that require improvement and we need to ensure we don’t repeat the mistakes we did in the previous matches,” he said.
“While doing well against a higher-ranked team like Belgium, who we will play in the coming major tournaments like the Champions Trophy and the World Cup in Bhubaneswar, is a priority. Winning against Japan and New Zealand has also been a plus point for this young squad,” he added.