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Better Penalty Corner Conversions, Getting Past Belgium on Manpreet's To do List

The Manpreet Singh led-side is ranked fifth in the world, have been amongst the most improved sides in the recent years, and believe that they can go the distance.

Madhav Agarwal | News18 Sports

Updated:November 27, 2018, 4:30 PM IST
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Better Penalty Corner Conversions, Getting Past Belgium on Manpreet's To do List
The Manpreet Singh led-side is ranked fifth in the world, have been amongst the most improved sides in the recent years, and believe that they can go the distance.
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With the Hockey World Cup 2018 around the corner, hosts India would like to put their best step forward and lift the cup for the first time since 1975. The Manpreet Singh led-side is ranked fifth in the world, have been among the most improved sides in the recent years and believe that they can go the distance. But the skipper has identified a few areas that team needs to work on, to meet their own expectations.

"Conversion through penalty corners has to be the area that we need to work on," Manpreet Singh told News18 Sports.

"Asian Champions Trophy was one occasion where we really did well. Overall Harmanpreet Singh did really well in that area. We have three drag-flickers at the moment who are putting in a lot of effort in training. We have to see how it goes finally. I think you'll see good variations from our drag-flickers this time around."

"The aim is to convert on the very first opportunity we get. If we can get some goals there, it can really lift the team."

More often than not the Indian outfit is lambasted for letting the match slip in the last quarter, or to be more precise, the last five minutes where the pressure builds up hold on to the lead. But Manpreet feels the defense line is adequately equipped to not let that happen again. Also, the team is doing well as far as the number of penetrations in the D are concerned. It is the finishing that they are working on.

"Surender Kumar, Varun Kumar, Birendra Lakra and Amit Rohidas. Our defense will depend on them a lot. So these guys have enough experience that can keep the Belgians, and other teams in check. They exactly know when to tackle, and how to pace the game, so these guys are crucial to our chances.

"But then, attack will be our priority. As I said, we need to score with the first opportunity we get. Right now we are doing well to enter in the opponent's box even in the dying minutes of the game, but haven't been finishing well. We need to ensure that we get a hit at the goal whenever we enter the box. If you see our recent matches, we have been entering the D on at least 25 occasions, but not getting the goals. We are trying to rectify that."

India are placed in Group C along with South Africa, Canada and Belgium, with latter being their nemesis.

"Talking specifically about Belgium, they are the Olympic silver-medalist. It always goes down to the wire against them. It's never a one-sided match against them, and they really challenge us in every department. The key will be to score against them on the very first opportunity we get. They have a hardworking lot. They are very good with attack and counter attack, so we have to make sure that we are ready for it. Also they have some players who are excellent in the D. So the onus is on us to keep them at bay. We have to good in defense then.

"Apart from that, I think not only Belgium, but any team on their day can prove to be a handful on their given day. If we give our best on the field, then we can certainly go past the Belgians too. This is the World Cup we are talking about, so every team will be gunning to give their best. No team has come here to play easy," Manpreet added.

India is one of the youngest teams in the tournament with seven players in the roster from the 2016 Junior World Cup, the players are gelling well together, feels Manpreet. To add to that there is presence of the experienced goalkeeper PR Sreejesh.

"It's a great thing that we have a good chunk of players from that Junior World Cup team. It really helps the players to grow together. As for Sreejesh, His presence means a lot to the young Indian team. All the communication and formations, he takes care of from the D. He is the one who bails us out of tough situations more often than not. And I have the kind of faith in him, that he won't let the opponents score, even if the defenders fail. So all in all we should do we'll."

| Edited by: Abhimanyu Sen
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