Antwerp (Belgium): Already assured of a place in next year’s Rio Olympics, a relaxed Indian men's hockey team will look to experiment with its strategies in the FIH World League Semifinals where it takes on a lowly France in the side’s tournament opener on Saturday.
The Indian hockey team. File Pic
The Hockey World League (HWL) Semifinals in the Belgian city of Antwerp, hosting its first major international hockey tournament since the 1920 Olympics, offers direct entry to the 2016 Olympics for three teams each in the men and women’s competitions.
The Indian men’s team is the only one in this tournament, which includes reigning World Champions Australia besides former Olympic champions Pakistan and Great Britain, to have already secured its passage to Rio by virtue of winning the gold medal at the Incheon Asian Games last year.
Under the stewardship of new chief coach Paul van Ass, the Indian men's team has the rare luxury of trying out new strategies in a major international event.
Van Ass acknowledged that India is now able to match the pace set by the rivals, but his wards need to bolster their ability of setting the pace to suit their game plan.
“When fit enough, the Indian players are quite good when the rivals make the pace of the contest, but they need to learn to dictate the flow of the contest,” said Van Ass, who took charge of the Indian team two months ago.
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