After starting their debut campaign in the FIH Pro League with a bang against the Netherlands, the Indian hockey men’s team will be keen to build on the start when they host world champions Belgium at the Kalinga Stadium for a double-header over the weekend.
While the Indians were clinical in their approach against the Dutch, Belgium has been at their ruthless best, beating the likes of Australia and New Zealand to sit on top to the points table with 11 points from four matches.
However, in Bhubaneshwar, the place where they lifted the World Cup in 2018, while the Belgians will be keen to build on their start, Indian head coach Graham Reid ensured that his side was eyeing a win in the FIH Pro League fixture.
“We are ready to go,” declared Graham Reid, a former Australian hockey player and a silver-medalist at the 1992 Olympics, at the pre-match press briefing.
“We have been training for the last two weeks. So it's been really good preparation for the matches against Belgium. What's important for us is that we need to perform at our best. We will be going for the win.
"We are not going to focus much on our opponents but will focus on what we need to do," he continued. "The players are very clear about what is required of them. We can't change the way our opponents play, but we can change the way we play.”
Manpreet Singh looks at the bright side
Facing the world champions might sound like a daunting task, but Indian hockey captain Manpreet Singh chose to look at the bright side of the challenge.
"All the teams which are playing in the FIH Pro League will play in the 2020 Olympics as well. So, we have a good opportunity to find out which areas we should work on during this tournament and get better as a team before the Olympics. The youngsters also have a good chance to showcase their skills in this competition,” said Manpreet Singh.
Meanwhile, the Belgian chief coach Shane McLeod was not willing to take the Indian hockey team lightly when they take the field in the FIH Pro League.
“It's been a very nice build-up to the games against India. We have played four games and learned from each of those experiences.
“After those four games, we took a couple of days in Kuala Lumpur to refresh mentally and so on and now we are looking forward to two top games against India, who also have been doing really well so far.
"I think the Indian team is on the rise at the moment. They have got a talented group of young players," observed McLeod.
Where to watch the FIH Pro League
The FIH Pro League will be live on the Star Sports network and will be streamed live on Hotstar as well. The matches will be held on February 8 and 9, with both starting at 5:00 PM IST.