India will face Wales in a crucial hockey World Cup tie on Thursday. If India win, they will automatically enter the last-eight stage. A loss could make things a bit difficult for India.
However, expectations are running high as India won their inaugural match against Spain and drew with England, both considered to be strong opponents. The Kalinga Stadium is expected to be full to the brim on Thursday as this will be India’s first game here.
With four points from two games, India are placed second in Pool D and will take on Wales in their last league game on Thursday. England, also on four points, are leading the pool on account of a better goal difference.
India, though, will have the advantage of knowing what to do before their final Pool D match as they play after England’s game against Spain on Thursday.
If England beat Spain, then India will need to defeat Wales by at least five goals. The number of goals India need to score will keep on increasing depending on England’s victory margin.
If two teams are on equal points and have the same number of wins, the rankings in the pool stage are decided on the basis of goal difference.
In any case, India will not be knocked out of the tournament as they will finish second if they beat Wales — a task they are expected to accomplish. If India finish second in Pool D, they will play the third-place team in Pool C, which could be either New Zealand or Malaysia in the ‘crossover’ round.
The winning team in each of the four pools qualifies directly for the quarter finals. The second and third-placed finishers in each pool will feature in crossover matches. A second-place finisher of a pool will play a third-place side of another pool and the winning team will face a pool topper in the quarter finals.
If India top the pool and qualify directly for the quarters, they will play one match less and that may keep them fresh.
At the news conference, captain Harmanpreet Singh and coach Graham Reid sounded confident about doing well against Wales. On being asked about India’s need to win by a good margin, Harmanpreet said: “Yes, that’s a challenge. We will try to score as many goals as we can.”
India’s poor penalty corner conversion record has been the topic of discussion here and Harmanpreet is aware of the problem. “We have analysed it. Hopefully, we will do well in the coming days.’’
Reid also said the fans would see the team converting more and more penalty corners in the coming days. “As far as preparation is concerned, there is no difference,” said Reid. “We will play our natural game, stay simple and remain patient. We can wake up from there.”
India played their first two matches in Rourkela. Reid said the venue change would have no impact and was happy that players got a good break.