Defending champion India will look towards a ‘winning formula’ when they go into a showdown with New Zealand at the Taman Daya Hockey stadium on Monday.
India’s head coach C.R. Kumar’s side is playing on a familiar playground on which the Indians emerged champions three times (2013, 2014 and 2022) and runner-up four times (2012, 2015, 2018 and 2019).
The Kiwis, who edged the Malaysian young tigers 3-2 and lost 2-3 against Pakistan, will go up against the reigning Junior Asia Cup champions as underdogs following India’s glowing reputation as World No 3 and are among the top guns in this 11th edition of the SOJC.
The SOJC is considered a litmus test for all participating sides ahead of the forthcoming Men’s Junior World Cup to be held at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil.
“We were engaged in tough matches against Pakistan (3-3) and Malaysia (3-1) and we expect New Zealand to be in their element too. Half of the Junior World Cup teams are competing here and every match is going to be tough,” said India’s coach Kumar.
“Apart from captain Uttam (Singh), coming into this tournament some of the boys are very raw, particularly the forwards, and they can still play in the next World Cup and graduate to the next level,” said Kumar, adding that there are sufficient players in the national back-up squad to fill the gaps.
“We respect every team in the tournament and our mission is to qualify for the semi-finals first. To do this we much secure a win against New Zealand,” he said.
New Zealand coach Aaron Ford said his players are mentally tuned up for the task ahead and play towards a victory.
“The one-day rest was a welcome for the boys following tough matches against the Pakistanis and Malaysians. I am excited with the players performance and it could have been better. In both matches we picked up momentum in the last quarter and that’s too late.,” said Ford.
In other matches scheduled on Monday, the two-time champions Australia and Germany (2012 winner) match is expected to be an explosive affair while Great Britain and South Africa will be looking for their first points in the tournament.
The South Africans lost 6-1 to Germany while Great Britain fell 0-3 against the Australians in their opening matches.