*Harmanpreet in action against Australia
New Delhi, 17 May: Indian hockey team's new chief coach Craig Fulton on Tuesday promised a good showing by "Men in Blue' in the FIH Pro League matches in Europe.
Fulton made this assertion on the eve of team's departure to Europe for the league starting 26th May. This is South African's first assignment with the team as coach.
Speaking on the team’s preparation during a virtual press conference, Fulton, who has nearly 25 years of coaching experience, said, “We had intensive running and conditioning sessions in build-up for our upcoming competitions. Moreover, we are focusing on the group of players who have been selected to play in the FIH Pro League in Europe and they are being trained in a certain way.”
“Players are riding high on confidence courtesy of their brilliant display in Rourkela, where they defeated Australia and Germany. They also understand what I want from them and are performing well in training, which is definitely a good sign for us as a group ahead of our upcoming Pro League matches,” he added.
In their previous League 2022/23 matches during the home leg played in Rourkela, Odisha, last year, the team put up a solid showing and remained unbeaten against reigning World Champions Germany and Australia which helped them climb up to top of the points table.
Now, under the guidance of Fulton, who joined the team at the India National Coaching Camp at SAI Centre, Bengaluru on 29th April, the team will aim to continue their winning momentum as they take on reigning Olympic champions Belgium (May 26 and June 2) and hosts Great Britain (May 27 and June 3) in London.
The team will then travel to Eindhoven to take on hosts and world No.1 Netherlands (June 7 and 10) and conclude their campaign in the prestigious nine-team competition with ties against world No.7 Argentina (June 8 and 11).
On the other hand, Skipper Harmanpreet , who also talked to the media,opined that for the League in Europe, there will not be much changes to the structure and tactics that the team implemented during their e matches in Rourkela.
“Our performance against Australia and Germany was a big confidence booster for us, hence we will aim to follow the similar structure that we followed in Rourkela. However, the Chief Coach has instructed us to focus on solidifying our defence, so, we are preparing accordingly,” He added .
The Coach was of the view that Pro League in Europe will be a great opportunity for the team to compete against top-ranked teams and further improve their overall game ahead of the 19th Asian Games in China, which is a crucial tournament apropos the qualification for the Paris 2024 Olympics.
“Our priority is to win the Asian Games as it will ensure our direct qualification for the Paris Olympics. So, in that sense, FIH Pro League, as well as other lined-up tournaments including Asian Champions Trophy is of vital importance for us as they will not only enhance our preparations but also help us emerge as the title contender in the Asian Games in China later this year.