India hockey skipper Manpreet Singh on Monday expressed confidence on his side to come good this year and win medals. Big-ticket events such as the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup and Commonwealth Games are lined up this year. As 33 probables reported at the national camp here on Monday, the energy among the players was evident. After having ended 2017 by winning the bronze medal in the World League Final in Bhubaneswar, the team began preparations for the upcoming assignments by finishing second in the Four Nations Invitational Tournament in New Zealand, where they faced World No 3 Belgium, ninth-ranked New Zealand and number 16 Japan.
"We have had sufficient rest, both physically and mentally, and are ready to take on the challenges that lie in front of us this season, starting with the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup 2018," Manpreet said in a statement.
About the importance of preparing right, he said: "We had a good run last year but this year we look to retain our crown at the Asian Games, thereby directly qualifying for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
"The biggest opportunity for us is the prospect of winning the World Cup in our own backyard so we will give our all to prepare in the best way possible, starting with the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup and then the Commonwealth Games."
During the Four Nations Invitational Tournament, India ended up conceding 17 goals in eight matches and the 25-year-old midfielder acknowledged the need to work on defensive duties as they prepare for some major tournaments.
"Defence will be the priority in this camp as we look to execute our plans in the back better during crucial stages of a match. However, in the modern game, the efficiency of the defence also relies on how well you can defend as a team and not just individuals or the players playing the role."
Manpreet has represented India in more than 200 matches since making his international debut in 2011 and believes that in order to play consistently at the highest level, it is important to take care of fitness.
"We have a crucial period ahead where we play five important tournaments so it is critical for us to keep working on our fitness levels during Camp as well as when we are on tour.
"Fitness is of paramount to deliver on the turf, and I believe that this year we have had a good amount of rest to recharge, so we are all are raring to go," he added.
(With IANS Inputs)