Having started their FIH Hockey Pro League campaign on an impressive note with twin victories against the Netherlands in a two-legged clash, India next welcome world’s top-ranked side Belgium. Also Read - Badminton: Saina Nehwal, Kidambi Srikanth's Chances to Qualify For Tokyo Olympics Virtually Over With Singapore Open Cancellation
The two teams will square off on February 8 and 9 at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar. Also Read - George Fernandez, Former Indian Hockey Player, Dies Due to Covid-19
While Belgium present a different challenge than the Netherlands, forward Gurjant Singh says the team will draw confidence from their last tour of Belgium from which they returned undefeated. “We had a great tour of Belgium last year, we won all our matches there. That result certainly gives us a lot of confidence. All the FIH Hockey Pro League matches will help us prepare for the Olympics. All the top teams in the world are playing this tournament. Now the Indian team is performing well. We beat the Netherlands last month, who are ranked third in the world. So the team’s morale is quite high at the moment,” Gurjant said. Also Read - Olympic Gold is Ultimate Goal For All of us, Says Hockey Mid-Fielder Rajkumar Pal
After a dominating win in the first leg, India were 1-3 down in the second match before launching a late comeback to level the tie and eventually win it in the shootout. A victory in such manner, Gurjant said, has surely boosted their morale. “After such a victory, the team’s morale gets a major boost. So one can say that the Indian men’s hockey team is a good chaser as well. We can come from behind and win the match and that too against the World No. 3 side. So such victories motivate us as individuals and as a team. It makes the side mentally stronger,” the 25-year-old forward said.
With Olympics now just a few months away, Gurjant says the team is heading in the right direction. “This is a very crucial time for us. Every match is very important for us. We are coordinating and playing well as a unit. However, we have to ensure that we keep putting up good performances consistently. Each and every player in the team has the Olympics in their mind and we are working towards doing well at the tournament,” he said.