The Indian hockey team will kick off their FIH 2023 Men’s Hockey World Cup on Friday, January 13 with a match against Spain. In the last edition of the world’s biggest hockey tournament, the hosts could only reach the quarter-finals. In the 2018 quarterfinals, they lost to eventual runners-up Netherlands.
Spain, on the other hand, were knocked out in the first round, finishing last. This time, they will face an Indian team looking to carry on the tradition of winning a bronze medal at Tokyo 2020, their first Olympic medal since 1982.
Last year, the two teams met twice in the FIH Pro League at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar. Spain India won the first match 3-2, while the second ended in a 2-2 draw before India won the penalty shootout 3-1.
Spain may beat Indians in FIH Pro League, but it’s hockey world cup, India will bring its A-level game. This will be an exciting game.
While the overall performance of the entire team will determine the outcome, some key players may have a big say in the game. Looking ahead, we examine three player battles that will be key in deciding who comes out on top in India’s Hockey World Cup opener.
#1 Adrian Rafi vs Harmanpreet Singh
India rely too much on their corner specialists to score goals Harman Preet Singh. The solid defender is also the captain and as such needs to deliver again for his team. When he takes up the post in the PC routine for India’s first Hockey World Cup match, he will play against Spanish goalkeeper Adrian Rafi.
Rafi is a very capable goalkeeper. But he met one of the best drag flashers in the world at Harmanpreet. If the Spanish goalkeeper can keep the Indian captain low in the scoring department, it will compound India’s problems. So, this game will be very important.
#2 Enrique Gonzalez vs Jarman Preet Singh
Jarmanpreet Singh has emerged as one of India’s most important players after the Tokyo Olympics. The big man Sardar plays primarily at guard, but his presence is felt throughout the floor.
Against Spain, he will have to try to stop the dangerous runs Spain’s Enrique Gonzalez can make. The Spanish midfielder has the ability to cut quickly into midfield and open up the opposition’s defenses.
With his agility and skill, Jarmanpreet had to make sure to stop Gonzalez before he could do any damage.
#3 Krishan Pathak vs Mark Miralles
The ongoing FIH Pro League has seen India’s Krishan Pathaka substitute PR Sri Jesh Over time, adulthood. His goalkeeping performance in the first few games of the league has been excellent and he could be India’s first choice for the upcoming Hockey World Cup.
For the goalkeeper, his biggest test is the corner kick. When set-pieces come up, he’s likely to play against Spain’s drag specialist Marc Miralles.
If Pathak continues his good form in this Hockey World Cup and manages to keep PC goals to a minimum, India will get a huge boost. With the talent he possesses, Pathak cannot be underestimated.