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Jr Hockey World Cup: India meet Poland with quarters spot on the line

India take on Poland in the last match in Pool B on Saturday in the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s Junior World Cup at the Kalinga Stadium here with victory sealing them a place in the quarter-finals.

Both India and Poland are on three points from two matches, the Indians ahead on goal difference. France are on top of the standings with six points from two matches and are virtually assured of their place in the quarters. They take on Canada in an earlier match on Saturday.

India had lost 4-5 to France in their opening match but came back strongly to hand Canada a 13-1 defeat in their two preliminary league matches so far. Poland had defeated Canada 1-0 in their first match and lost to France 1-7 on Thursday.

So, Saturday’s encounter is a virtual shootout for Poland as they need to win the match while India can progress even with a draw because of their superior goal difference.

But Graham Reid’s boys would like to beat Poland by a handsome margin as it will also act as a morale booster ahead of what would probably be a tough quarterfinal against top seed Belgium, who are likely to top Pool A going by their performance in their first match.

Reid said his boys are looking ahead to Saturday’s match.

“If we beat Poland on Saturday, we may face Belgium in the next stage. But to win FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s Junior World Cup Bhubaneswar 2021, you must beat everybody. After losing to France, it became clear to us that we have to win every game to win back-to-back titles. It gives us a bit of clarity,” he said.

Reid said that they will take the clash with Belgium as a challenge. “It definitely will be a challenge but we are not looking too ahead. We are thinking of the match against Poland,” said Reid.

Though Reid’s team has looked solid on paper, they had made basic errors against France and though they did create several chances, they failed to capitalise on many opportunities. Against Poland, the Indians will have to be proactive as Poland is expected to crowd their half and look to capitalise on the counter-attack.

The Indians will also have to guard against conceding early goals, as they did against France, and be more attacking to keep Poland under pressure.

The Indian attack led by Araijeet Singh Hundal and Uttam Singh and Manjeet Singh will have to be at their best while the midfield led by skipper Vivek Sagar Prasad and Maninder Singh has to keep the forwards well fed.

India have four good drag flickers including Sanjay, Sharadanand Tiwari, and Hundal and they need to maintain a good rotation to keep the rival defenders guessing on penalty corners.

Though the match against Poland is very crucial, it will also be a preparation for the tougher challenges in the next stage. The Indians will have to be on their toes on Saturday to maintain their chances of meeting head=on the challenges in the knockout stages.

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