India are placed in tough pool in hockey World Cup: Zafar Iqbal

New Delhi, Dec 12 (PTI) Former hockey captain Zafar Iqbal feels it won’t be easy for India to reclaim the men’s World Cup after 47 years as the hosts are clubbed in a tough pool alongside Spain, England and Wales.

The mega event is scheduled to be held in Bhubaneswar and Rourkela from January 13 to 29.

India’s only gold in the World Cup came at the 1975 Kuala Lumpur edition under Ajit Pal Singh’s captaincy.

Zafar said it would be a great achievement if the hosts manage to finish on the podium after the bronze at the Tokyo Olympics. Australia, Belgium, the Netherlands, India, Argentina, Germany, New Zealand, England, France, Korea, Malaysia, Spain, South Africa, Japan, Chile and Wales are the 16 teams, who will be vying for the title.

India are the top-ranked team in Pool D at fifth spot, ahead of world no.6 England, no.8 Spain and no.15 Wales.

“At world-level competitions, you never know who will be in top form. Several teams are very strong, such as Belgium, Netherlands, Australia, England, Spain, and India,” Zafar said is a Hockey India release.

“We will have tough matches in the group stages. We have Spain, England, and Wales, and all are equally strong in their own right. I am sure if India finish on the podium, it will be a great achievement.

“We have several gutsy players in the team, who always put in their best and who were the heroes of the Tokyo Olympics. So, we hope they can repeat the success once again,” he added.

Zafar, a member of India’s 1980 Moscow Olympics gold medal-winning side, said the ongoing football World Cup is an example that any team can cause upsets in a big-ticket sporting event.

“Former world champions Spain, Germany and Brazil have all been eliminated from the football World Cup. You never know which team can get a win over which team in such tournaments. It is always unpredictable and the Men’s Hockey World Cup 2023 is unpredictable as well.” he said.

Zafar, who also competed in the 1982 men’s World Cup in Mumbai, said astro-turf has changed the game completely and modern-day hockey is all about power.

“During our time, hockey was played on grass. But astro-turf started replacing grass in most parts of the world as the ’80s came around. Even though the 1982 World Cup was played on grass at home, we were unable to perform (at) our best, and were unable to qualify for the semifinals,” he said.

“Now, astro-turf has converted hockey into a game of power. The players need to be fitter and require more energy. We had to adapt to the European style of attacking hockey.

Source: PTI News


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