Harmanpreet will have to step up and play a perfect match: Dilip Tirkey


Team India have not fared badly at the ongoing hockey World Cup in Odisha so far, but they still find themselves in a tricky spot. The Harmanpreet Singh-led side that beat Spain 2-0 followed by a goalless draw against England, need to beat Wales by a big margin in their last Pool ‘D’ match at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Thursday in order to top their group for a direct quarter-final berth. As per the tournament’s format, the second and third-placed teams in each of the four groups of the 16-team event have to play Crossover matches. 

Hockey India President and former skipper Dilip Tirkey understands the challenge at hand for the World No.5 Indians. “It’s tough to win any World Cup match, and here we have to win with more goals, so that makes it even more challenging,” Tirkey, who was elected to the Hockey India top job in September and has been in the forefront in organising the 15th edition of hockey’s showpiece event in his home state, told mid-day on Wednesday. 

Dilip Tirkey

India and England are on four points each, but the Englishmen are on top of Pool ‘D’ given their better goal difference (+3) having beaten Wales 5-0 earlier in the competition. 

Tirkey pointed out that the first match on Thursday—England v Spain—will give India an indication of how they should play Wales. “The England-Spain result will make the picture clearer for India. If England win by a two or three-goal margin, then we have to beat Wales by a big score, but if that match ends in a draw, then we can top the group even if we beat Wales by a small score,” added Tirkey, 45. 

Wales have never troubled India in the past, losing to them in all five previous meetings. In their last clash, at the 2022 Commonwealth Games, India won 4-1. But despite their low ranking (14), the fact that they are already out of the competition here, could see Wales go all out and that could  spell trouble for India, felt Tirkey. “Though they have conceded 10 goals, Wales are not an easy team. They will be hurting and will play for pride. They will be looking at tightening their defence. India will have to take their chances. Skipper Harmanpreet will have to step up and play a perfect match. India need him to score off whatever penalty corner drag flick opportunities he gets. Only that will ensure maximum goals for us,” explained Tirkey.

Also Read: Harmanpreet & Co can end India’s World Cup medal drought: Dilip Tirkey

If India fail to top their pool, they could face either New Zealand or Malaysia in the Crossover clash and a win there will pit them against reigning World and Olympic champions Belgium in the quarter-finals.  



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