Veteran India hockey goalkeeper PR Sreejesh feels India’s pool in the Hockey World Cup is interesting and challenging.
India are set to host the men’s World Cup from January 13 to 29 next year.
India are placed in a tricky Pool D in next year’s World Cup and Sreejesh expects a tough competition from their opponents in the preliminary stage.
World No.5 India are placed alongside England (world No. 6), Spain (world No.8) and Wales in the World Cup.
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The Indians drew 4-4 against England and beat Wales 4-1 en route to a silver medal-winning effort in this year’s Birmingham Commonwealth Games.
“It is an interesting pool. England, Spain and Wales all three are really good teams. Having played England and Wales at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games recently, I feel it will be a tough competition," Sreejesh said.
“But, we don’t need to think about it right now. At present, it’s all about us. We are going step-by-step and working on our game at the national camp. We are very excited and looking forward to playing the World Cup at home for the second consecutive time."
But before the marquee event, India will host world No.8 Spain on October 30 and November 6 in their first tie of the upcoming FIH Pro League 2022-23 at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar.
Sreejesh feels that their opening two FIH Pro League matches against ever-improving Spain will be a “mock test" ahead of the World Cup to be held early next year in Bhubaneswar and Rourkela.
“FIH Hockey Pro League is the best platform for us because we get to play against some of the top teams. The upcoming matches at home will be like a mock test for us, it will help us for the real challenge which we will face in January 2023," Sreejesh said in a Hockey India release.
“It will also help us in providing young players the experience of playing high-level hockey. So, it’s a great opportunity for us as it will sort of help us set the tempo for the World Cup."
The 34-year-old lanky custodian has recently been nominated for the FIH Goalkeeper of the Year award, and he credited his teammates for the honour.
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“It is an honour for me to be nominated for the FIH Goalkeeper of the Year award category. Even though I have been nominated as an individual, it wouldn’t have been possible without my teammates, who have been giving their best each and every day for the team," Sreejesh said.
“I am privileged to have such amazing teammates and coaching staff who have helped me bring out the best of my game and helped me to take it to another level.
“Every time I get nominated for the awards, I feel I am raising the bar for myself and for the youngsters who aspire to become goalkeepers. If you want to reach this level, you have to keep working hard and strive to be better every day," he added.
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