The Indian team is gearing up for a new mission as they prepare to face hosts South Africa and France in the first matches of their FIH Hockey Pro League 2021/22 season, which begins on Tuesday. The world No. 3 team will play two matches against each of the other teams on the tour.
"We are really excited for our first assignment of 2022. We begin our season against two quality sides, so it's a great thing. Our focus is to gain momentum and make a positive start as we approach this year step-by-step. These FIH Hockey Pro League matches will certainly help us prepare for the forthcoming major events," stated the Indian Vice-Captain Harmanpreet Singh.
On Tuesday, India will face France in their opening encounter. The last time these two teams met was in the Fintro Hockey World League Semi-Final in Antwerp in 2015, with India prevailing 3-2. "We haven't played against France in a long time. They are a really good side, and, no doubt, it will be a challenging match for us," Harmanpreet said.
"Our focus will remain on playing good hockey, executing our skills, and making the best out of the opportunities. We are looking forward to tomorrow's match. We will definitely give our 100%, and hopefully, start the campaign with a win," the Vice-Captain added.
On Wednesday, the India team, captained by Manpreet Singh, will face South Africa at home. The last time these two sides met was in the 2019 FIH Men's Series Finals in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, which India won 5-1 to secure a berth in the FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers in Odisha. The visitors have an overall head-to-head record (since 2013), with India winning all three matches versus the hosts.
When questioned about playing against the World No.10 squad, the 26-year-old stated, " South Africa are a quality team. They are currently ranked 10th in the world and can beat any team on a given day, so you just can't underestimate them. It will certainly be a good challenge for us, and we are really excited to face a good team like South Africa."
Harmanpreet went on to say that these games will not only help the squad acquire experience but will also help them understand where they stand in terms of their game and training.
"We have a busy 2022 year, with a lot of important tournaments lined up in the next 12 months, so we need to ensure that we are fully prepared. I think the FIH Hockey Pro League 2021/22 matches will not only help us gain the experience but will also give us the understanding about where we stand with regards to our game as well as training. You see, there's always room for improvement, so apart from executing our skills and plans, our focus will also remain on improving our game, and that's where I think Pro League matches will play a vital role." Harmanpreet concluded.
Following a two-day break, India will face France on February 12 at 2130 IST and host South Africa on February 13 at 2130 IST.
Star Sports Select 2 and Star Sports Select 2 HD will broadcast the matches live. Matches will be streamed live on Hotstar as well.