India’s comeback win against Netherlands in the quarterfinals of the hockey Junior Men’s World Cup on Tuesday made it the only Asian team remaining in the competition. Ahead of the semifinal against Germany, captain Uttam Singh and coach C.R. Kumar are confident of putting one across the most successful team in history.
“We have played a lot more against Germany compared to other European teams but no tournament is the same as a World Cup. We have an idea of their game. The plans are there, we now have to execute them clinically and if we do that, the result will be in our favour. That’s all we are telling the players also, just stick to the plan and go ahead confidently,” Kumar said during a media interaction on Wednesday.
Having watched Germany’s quarterfinal against defending champion Argentina closely, Kumar is aware of not only the challenges for his team but also the responsibility as the flag-bearer of Asian hockey. The pressure, Uttam said, was not a burden.
“Pressure will always be there in big tournaments when you are playing for your country. But it should motivate you, not affect your game even when you are trailing. We know that if they can score two goals in the first 30 minutes, we can also score 3-4 in the next 30. I always say you haven’t won or lost till the final whistle. That belief and trust in the team is very important,” the captain insisted.
Uttam —one of the six players from the 2021 edition —is keen to avenge the 4-2 semis loss to Germany.
“At the 2021 JWC, I was only a player, not the captain and we lost in the semifinals. But the dream of playing and winning the final is always there and now that we have got another chance, we don’t want to waste the opportunity. Many play in a World Cup; only a few win. We already have our names as World Cuppers; now it’s time to write our names among World Cup champions,” Uttam said.
For Kumar, it has been a long, personal wait but the experienced coach is in no hurry. “The tournament is not over till the last second on December 16. We always go match-by-match and every team meeting starts with a 0-0 slide, so everyone knows that the past matches are done and don’t matter any more”.
“I was part of the 2001 team’s preparation (the first time India won). Now I am getting a chance after 22 years. it’s been a long wait but I am not someone to run away from responsibilities. I hope to deliver this time with this group, which I think is as talented as the 2001 side. I am expecting to keep the date (on 16th),” he smiled.
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