India will reach World Cup semis: Harendra

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> Former national hockey coach Harendra Singh is confident of India atleast making the semifinal cut in next month's Hero Honda FIH World Cup to be held in New De

Updated: January 04, 2010 16:33 IST
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New Delhi:

Eight time Olympic champions India might be fighting hard to regain its past glory, but former national hockey coach Harendra Singh is confident of atleast making the semifinal cut in next month's Hero Honda FIH World Cup to be held here.

Cautioning his wards against taking additional pressure, Harendra said the players should do away with the burden of playing on home turf as it could dampen their chances in the February 28-March 13 megaevent.

"We have always performed well on homeground and on the basis of our preparation I can assure you that we will play the semifinals. But we must avoid the additional pressure of playing at home as it could hamper our chances," Harendra said from Pune.

"It won't be fair to expect too much from the team. If we start talking about gold or silver medal, players will feel the pressure. I believe in making match by match strategy. So right now, we are only thinking about our first match against Pakistan on February 28," he said.

India will play Pakistan in their first Pool B match on the opening day and then take on Spain on March 4.

India has been paired along with arch-rivals Pakistan, Australia, England, South Africa and Spain in Pool B, while Argentina, Canada, Germany, Korea, the Netherlands and New Zealand form Pool A.

Harendera also dismissed suggestions that India has got a tough pool and said at this level, they must be ready to play any side in the world.

"It is World Cup where the 12 best teams of the world are playing. We can not underestimate any side. We are ready to play any team although Australia is the most dangerous team and we have to prepare special strategy to counter them," the coach said.

Last year, the national hockey team embarked on a number of overseas series, the four-nation European tour being the prominent, and Harendra feels this experience will hold India in good stead in the year ahead that boasts of three important tournaments in World Cup, Commonwealth Games and Asian Games.

"We had many foreign tours in 2009 where we got a chance to judge ourselves against top teams. Now we know our strengths and weaknesses and we working on them," he said.

"We are progressing well for the Commonwealth Games. We have a core group of 22 players for the World Cup. We will choose the initial squad of 33 players for the Commonwealth Games by April end," he added.

With construction work still going on in Major Dhyanchand National Stadium, Harendra said the team needs the venue for practice atleast a month before the tournament.

However, it seems very unlikely as sources in Hockey India said that the turf would be ready for play not before the end of the month or first week of February.

"We need to practice at the venue atleast a month before the World Cup and the authorities have assured us that they will do the needful," Harendra said.

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