A formidable Indian team will be aiming to end their title drought spanning over a decade and half when they take on minnows Canada in their opening group league fixture in the 11th FIH Junior Hockey World Cup, starting Thursday.
The last time India won the junior world championship was back in 2001 in Hobart, Australia. It was a side that boasted quality players like Gagan Ajit Singh, Deepak Thakur, Yugraj Singh, Prabhjot Singh, all of whom went on to represent the senior national team with distinction.
German coach Valentin Altenburg has already declared India to be one of the top contenders for the title. This is the second time that India are hosting the men’s junior World Cup in hockey, and it is also the second successive time it is being held in India.
New Delhi hosted the last edition in 2013, where Germany claimed their sixth title beating France 5-2 in the final. A total of 16 teams have been put into four groups of four teams each. India are placed in Pool D alongside Canada, England and South Africa. Should the home team finish in the top two of the group stages, which they are expected to, they will have to face one of the top two teams from Pool C, which comprises defending champions Germany, New Zealand and Spain.
India will play England on December 10 before facing South Africa in their last pool fixture on December 12. Other matches featuring on the opening day of the tournament are New Zealand vs Japan (Pool C), Germany vs Spain (Pool C) and England vs South Africa (Pool D).
It is also the first time an international tournament will be hosted by the city of Nawabs, Lucknow in its newly-built Major Dhyan Chand Astroturf Stadium and India can expect huge crowd support, which is bound to act as tremendous morale booster for the home team.