Hockey World Cup 2018 India will take on the Netherlands in the quarter-final on Thursday at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar.
India have only once made it to the semi-final of a Hockey World Cup – in 1975 and then India went on to lift their only title at the major tournament. On Thursday, India will look to get a historic win against the Netherlands in the quarter-finals and take another step towards the ambiguous title at home.
India has been a 43-year long wait for a World Cup trophy and India have put a good account of themselves so far. In the group stages, India put up some scintillating hockey on display but that was just the start – the knockouts start from now and every step they take on that AstroTurf will be crucial.
Even though India’s performance in the World Cup so far shows otherwise, the home team has a huge task against the Netherlands. India has never defeated the mighty Dutch in the World Cup and they will be up against history on Thursday.
India has played against the Netherlands six times in the World Cup and has lost five times while one ended in a draw. Manpreet Singh‘s men will break a jinx if they manage to get past the Dutch.
Going by the current world rankings, there’s not much to differentiate India and the Netherlands. While the Dutch are placed fourth, India is just a place below on fifth. What makes the result all the more unpredictable is the fact that India and the Netherlands last went head to head at the Champions Trophy 2018, where the match ended in a 1-1 draw.
The overall head-to-head record between India and the Netherlands belongs to the Dutch, where off the 105 games between the two sides, India have won 33, lost 48 and the rest have ended in draws.
Indian hockey has improved quite a lot in the recent times and that is testified by the fact that since 2013, India have played the Netherlands nine times – both teams have won four games each and one has finished in a draw.
India captain Manpreet Singh was not ruling out the fact the history favored the Netherlands but he also made it a point to mention the improvement Indian hockey has seen in the past few years.
“The past results matter a lot because Netherlands have a better result against us. But, we have played well against them recently. We have also beaten them, drew against them at the Champions Trophy. Indian hockey has improved a lot. The match will be tough and whichever team plays better will win,” Manpreet said.
The India-Netherlands duel is expected to be a fast-paced and attacking encounter with both the teams heavily relying on their goal scoring abilities to come out as winners.
Both India and Netherlands have scored heavily in the pool stages. While India have scored 12 goals and conceded three, the Dutch have pumped in 18 goals and conceded five.
In the likes of captain Billy Bakker, Seve van Ass, Jeroen Hertzberger, Mirco Pruijser, Robbert Kemperman, Thiery Brinkman, the Dutch have got plenty of experience in the midfield and their strike force.
The Indians too would be relying on their strikers Mandeep Singh, Simranjeet Singh, Lalit Upadhyay and Akashdeep Singh to continue their good work.
With the Kalinga Stadium expected to be packed to its full capacity, there will also be tremendous pressure on the Indian team and the Dutch will be more than happy to exploit any mistake.
“This will be not be the first time. We have played in front of big crowds in pool games and in the past as well. We are used to playing in front of big crowds,” Netherlands coach Max Caldas said.
“We always try to play in our own pace, whether it is fast or slow, we like to dictate. We are not concerned about India because we can’t influence what India will do.”
Netherlands skipper Bakker added: “The Indian team also has lot of pressure. They need to perform in front of their home crowd. So I feel the pressure is more on the Indian team than us.”
However, India’s chief coach Harendra Singh did not agree that the crowd will put India under pressure. In fact he said that his boys know how to cope with the massive home support.
“There is no chance that the opposition can easily be in the driving seat. The boys have tested the crowd and they know how to cope with them. The crowd have always stood with us,” Harendra said.
“We are prepared to solve the challenge physically and mentally. You cannot even take 25% chances in the knockout stage. You have to be prepared for the game.”
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