Indian eves face Belgium in World League hockey opener

Antwerp: Their eyes firmly set on a ticket to next year’s Rio Olympics, Indian women’s hockey team will lock horns with hosts Belgium in their inaugural match of the FIH World League Semi-Finals, on Saturday.

Going by world rankings, there is hardly anything to differentiate between India (13th) and Belgium (12th) and the side which manages to overcome the pressure will come out on top on Saturday in the Pool B match.

But going by recent records, Belgium hold an edge over the Indians as they defeated their rivals on two occasions during the 2014 FIH Champions Challenge 1 in Glasgow.

But come Saturday, the Indian eves will be desperate to turn around their fortunes and hope to continue their good form in the prestigious tournament by utilising the experience they gained from their practice matches.

Confident of a good showing from his wards, India’s chief coach Mathias Ahrens said the eves need to counter pressure situations to come out on top against the hosts.

“We are aiming for a berth in the 2016 Olympic Games. The players have improved their skills as well as strategies according to the competition level. It will be a test for the entire team as it will give us a real time analysis of where do we stand and how immediately to plan for the next clashes,” he said.

“The team is confident and are aware that they have to stick to the strategy and keep it simple. The idea will be to not allow pressure to seep in.”

India captain Ritu Rani said a win on Saturday will boost the confidence of the team.

“Tomorrow’s clash is very important as a win will boost our confidence level. The focus will only be on keeping possession and to not lose control of the ball easily. If we do this I think we can create pressure and create scoring chances,” Ritu said.

After Belgium, Indian eves will face New Zealand on June 23 followed by matches against Poland (June 24) and Australia (June 27).

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