India to face Japan in Azlan Shah Cup opener

Despite being plagued by a series of injuries, the most recent being the nose fracture suffered during a practice match by Gurjant Singh who has returned home, the Indian team is upbeat and confident of a good show. 

India to face Japan in Azlan Shah Cup opener
Image Courtesy: Twitter/@TheHockeyIndia

India will take on Japan in their opening encounter of the 28th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup on Saturday.

Despite being plagued by a series of injuries, the most recent being the nose fracture suffered during a practice match by Gurjant Singh who has returned home, the Indian team is upbeat and confident of a good show. 

"Japan, Korea and hosts Malaysia will be the teams to watch out for. They are travelling with full squads and they will pose a stiff challenge for us," said Manpreet Singh on the eve of their opening match against Japan. 

"The youngsters will need to step up their game and I believe having fresh faces can be an advantage, as the possibility of them knowing much about the newcomers is less." 

"Though losing Gurjant Singh after coming here is a setback, Gursahibjit Singh, who is replacing him, is a talented forward and understands the requirements of the senior team," he added. 

On Thursday, the team played a practice match against hosts Malaysia, and are geared up for a good start to the tournament. 

India`s previous outing at the Sultan Azlan Shah ended with the team finishing fifth but witnessed good performances by a young unit combined with a few senior players. 

The team had lost narrowly (2-3) to Olympic Champions Argentina in their first match, drew with England 1-1, lost to Australia (who eventually won the title) 2-4, and beat Malaysia 5-1. 

"Youngsters have always used the platform to come up with memorable performances and though the forward-line, barring Mandeep Singh, has about 12 caps between each other, we are hopeful they will soak up the pressure early on and deliver."  

"It`s important for us seniors to back all the youngsters in the team and guide them through the tournament to get the best out of them," Manpreet added.