India captain Manpreet Singh: We've studied Canada
India captain Manpreet Singh oozes confidence on eve of crucial last league match against World No. 11 side; says break helped to recharge batteries
India captain Manpreet Singh looked under the weather, but oozed confidence nevertheless ahead of today's crucial last league match against Canada. World No. 5 India currently lead Pool C on better goal difference — +5 over Belgium's +1 — with both teams on four points each after one win and a draw. Canada on the other hand, are third after losing to Belgium 1-2 and holding South Africa 1-1. A win today should ensure the hosts remain on top and directly qualify for the quarter-finals, avoiding the cumbersome crossover route.
Back after a break
"We have had a good break [their last match was on December 2] and have worked on our fitness to ensure it doesn't dip. The break also gave us time to study Canada closely. This is an important game and we must convert our chances," said Manpreet, who was suffering from a bad throat until a day earlier and did not train too much yesterday.
Coach Harendra Singh said he has two expectations from his confident team. "One, I need to finish on top [of the pool] and the second thing is that I want a clean sheet — no goals to be scored against us," he said.
Since half a decade, India have played Canada five times and the results have not necessarily been dominating for the Indians who won thrice, lost once and drew once. Canada coach Paul Bundy said the pressure was on the hosts. "We don't have any pressure. For us, this is an exciting opportunity. India are playing in front of a billion people, while we are just playing in front of around 15,000 [stadium capacity]. We will play a good brand of hockey against India," said Bundy.
Canada's captain confident
Canada's captain Scott Tupper went on to list his World No. 11 side's strengths. "We have a good work ethic. We are also pretty fit and if we stick to our gameplan, we are hard to break. We are very opportunistic and have a very good penalty corner unit as well. Our strikers are dangerous and that creates a bit of a doubt in the higher ranked teams because they have seen us upset teams ranked higher than us," said Tupper, who was Canada's leading scorer at the 2016 Rio Olympics, with five goals out of the team's seven.
More importantly, Tupper pointed to one area where he felt Team India might just fall short. "India are a good team and have been playing well. They are fitter and faster than I can remember. They have lost a few senior players but I think by losing senior players, you can also lose some experience which they are going to need at this stage."
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