Hockey World Cup | On a given day, this Indian team can beat any team, asserts Arjun Halappa

Hockey World Cup | On a given day, this Indian team can beat any team, asserts Arjun Halappa

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Hockey India

Former Indian hockey captain Arjun Halappa is of the opinion that the current Indian side for the World Cup has the ability to beat any team in the world on a given day. He also mentioned that coach Harendra Singh has played a very vital role in the transformation of Indian hockey.

The Indian hockey team has now qualified for the quarter-finals of the World Cup after finishing at the top of the Group C points table. After beating South Africa 5-0 and a 2-2 draw against Belgium, Manpreet Singh and team got the better of Canada by beating them 5-1. Despite finishing with the equal number of points alongside Belgium, India finished ahead of them because of a superior goal difference. Seeing Indian team’s performance in the first three games, Halappa has underlined the fact that the real test will start from the quarterfinals and India has the ability to do well.

“For me, most of the guys have played the Junior World Cup and have played under Harendra (Singh). They have a good bunch of players and few have an experience at the top level in big tournaments. After the group stage, now the real World Cup starts. From the quarter-finals, the remaining matches are the major ones. I used to look up at these knockout matches and that should be the same for all the players. With the quality and the potential, this Indian team has got, on a given day they can beat any team in the world. There are a lot of things in favour of the Indian team. I am extremely happy that we are playing well at home and quite hopeful of winning the cup as well,” Halappa told SportsCafe in an exclusive chat. 

India and Canada were 1-1 till the end of the third quarter yesterday but in the last 15 minutes, the hosts went on to score as many as four goals to end the game with a difference of four goals and stayed well ahead of the Belgians on the points table.

“The end result is the most important thing for me. How you plan and how it ends up are different things. When you play lower ranked teams, the performance might vary as many things run in the mind but the result matters and that went in India’s favour this time. It was one all till the last quarter and the situation was a bit tensed as well. If we would not have topped the pool, we had to play the cross-over matches to go ahead,” the former India captain informed. 

 © Hockey India

Speaking about the development in Indian hockey in recent times, the former member of the national selection committee explained, “There is a more professional set ups now and that is the big change in Indian hockey. They look after themselves really well and they know what to eat, what to do and all. Earlier these things were there but not in a professional way. Harendra has played a big part in transforming hockey in India and getting a proper system into Indian hockey.”

“Support staff are important in any team. Players go on the field and perform but you can never imagine the contribution behind the doors. The physio, the masseur and the video analyst play a very crucial role. They look into the videos and make plans to overcome the shortcomings and take proper care of the entire team. I started my career under Harendra and have played a lot under him. He is very passionate about the sport and the country and the players know that. He is a motivational figure in the entire set up and I have learnt a lot from him during my playing days.”

The Indian side has only two experienced men in the midfield – Manpreet Singh and Chinglensana Singh for the World Cup. Halappa, who was one of the major midfielders in the 2004 Olympics, has explained that midfield is a very important part of the hockey turf and the players operating there have a lot to do during a match. He also spoke about the absence of Sardar Singh and his retirement from international hockey. 

“Midfield holds the key in a sport like hockey and they have to operate between defence and attack. They have to balance it up and being more creative and having composure is important for the midfielders. Experienced wise, India does not have a great midfield but Manpreet and Chinglen (Chinglensana) are there. Manpreet can handle the pressure being an experienced hand in the side. Simranjeet (Singh) has got unbelievable skills and can do the wonders for the side is what I feel,” stated the former midfielder. 

“There is no doubt Sardara is one of the best midfielders India has ever produced. He has done good service for the country and won matches and medals but you have to move on, you have to groom youngsters for the future. What we see now, we have a good bunch of young guys who are doing well in the World Cup.”

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