The Indian Men’s Hockey team is rearing to start its season afresh with a win as they take on Japan in the opening match of Four Nations Invitational Tournament on Wednesday in Tauranga, New Zealand on January 13. Both the teams will look forward to showcasing their best games at the beginning of the new year.
After four days of intense training at the Blake Park, and acclimatising with the conditions, drag-flicker Rupinder Pal Singh expressed his confidence for a pleasant start to the new season. Apart from Japan, India will face New Zealand and Belgium in two separate Five-day series.
“The mood in the team is upbeat. We have clocked some good sessions on the pitch, now we are looking forward to a good start,” said India’s pillar in the defence Rupinder, who will team up with Birendra Lakra, Surender Kumar, Harmanpreet Singh, Varun Kumar and Gurinder Singh to resist the opponents’ attacks.
“This being the first tournament of the year, it is important to win some good matches to get the momentum going,” he added.
All eyes will be on goalkeeper PR Sreejesh who is back in the team after his eight-month hiatus following an injury. He will be one of the key players for India. With a good track record and consistent performance against high-ranked players, he will be the perfect fit for this match.
Skipper Manpreet Singh believes that this tournament will set the pace for a hectic season and will lend impetus to team’s goal of clinching the coveted gold medal at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games later this year.
The 20-member squad features four debutants and Manpreet has stressed the importance of this tournament.
“It is always good to start the season with some good matches against top teams. We have Belgium in our pool in the World Cup this year and as many matches, we play against them, the better for us,” said Manpreet.
“With teams like New Zealand and Japan in the fray, this tour will certainly help us in our preparations for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games,” expressed the 25-year-old midfielder.
India has a good track record against Japan as they had started their successful in Men’s Asia Cup outing last year with a 5-1 win against Japan. It will be India’s goal to ensure that the team remains unbeaten against other Asian teams.
Here’s a look at India’s record against Japan:
- At Asian Games India encountered Japan 13 times, where India won all the 13 matches. India scored 47 goals and conceded only six.
- At Asia Cup, Indians have never lost a match against Japan winning all seven matches played till 2017. They have scored 34 goals and conceded only seven.
- At the Olympics, India faced Japan thrice, winning every time. India has registered 25 goals so far while conceding just one goal.
- At Asian Champions Trophy Indians won twice, lost once and drew once in four championships. During their last encounter in 2016, India won 10-2, where Rupinder Singh struck six goals.
- At Azlan Shah, India faced Japan twice, where the men in blue won both the matches.
- At Men’s Hockey Champions Challenge, India faced Japan twice and won twice.
India will be in its best shape in the opener against Japan at the Four Nations Invitational Tournament 2018, as a win will lift the team’s morale ahead of clashes against Belgium and New Zealand.