The Indian men's hockey team will be up against South Africa in the tournament opener of the Hockey World Cup 2018, scheduled to be played on Wednesday in Bhubaneshwar. Looking to end their 43-year drought in the quadrennial event, an upbeat Indian team will look to kickstart their campaign with a win against 15th ranked South African team. Ahead of the start of their campaign, wishes poured in from all quarters for the Manpreet Singh-led Indian team.
Earlier, during the opening day ceremony, that took place on Tuesday, Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan inspired all the participating nations with a speech.
"This is the most important tournament of the world. Because it is our sport, it is our hockey and there is no more special game than field hockey. And what sets it apart is that it is an amalgamation of a lot of emotions, thought and lots and lots of action. It involves guile, strength and stamina. It is a sport that involves artistry. Players are not mere players, they are artists," said Shahrukh Khan.
Thank u Odisha for all the excitement, love & the grand beginning to the World Cup Hockey. @naveen_odisha it was lovely to meet u sir. To all the players have a great tournament....& yes..Chak De India! pic.twitter.com/bQ2BajiG7O— Shah Rukh Khan (@iamsrk) November 27, 2018
The 16-nation tournament is scheduled to run from November 28 to December 16 at the Kalinga Stadium. The teams have been divided into four groups. Argentina, New Zealand, Spain and France have been placed in Group A.
Australia, England, Ireland and China have been put in Group B.
India have been placed in group C along with Belgium, Canada and South Africa while Netherlands, Germany, Malaysia and Pakistan have been placed in Group D.
In the past few months, the Indian team has displayed some excellent turnaround in their form. India dominated the Asian Champions Trophy, sharing the title with Pakistan after rain washed away the tournament final. The Manpreet Singh-led team was the only unbeaten side in the tournament.
In the 2018 Asian Games, India dominated the tournament, scoring a record 76 goals in the pool stages but got knocked out in the semi-finals against Malaysia. However, India ended up with a bronze medal after they defeated Pakistan.