Not a lot is expected from India in the Hockey World Cup, to be held in The Hague, Netherlands, with even the players and management's expectations only going as far as a top-eight finish. However, nothing gets that campaign in a big tournament rolling more than an impressive victory in the first match of the tournament, and India will look to do just that when they take on Belgium on Saturday.
Where to Watch Live:
The first match, between Australia and Malaysia, is scheduled for a 10.30 am local time (2 pm IST) start with India's match set for a 4 pm local time (7.30 pm IST) start. Live coverage in India is on Ten Sports, with the live streaming option HERE. Viewers in the US can catch the action on ESPN 3 or via the live streaming option HERE. UK viewers can watch the matches on Sky Sports 3, while they can also catch the action live online HERE.
India have been drawn in a tough Group A alongside England, Australia, Spain, Malaysia and their opening opponents Belgium. Terry Walsh's men will have to pull off a couple of upsets if they are to create a flutter or two in this World Cup, and a win over Belgium would be a nice start.
"All the boys are a determined group oozing with confidence and positivity," chief coach Walsh said on Friday. "While the team is confident for its opening match against Belgium tomorrow we cannot forget Belgium's target for World Cup and plus the fact that they have been playing very good hockey recently with positive results.
"From our end we will focus on our style and thwart the powers they can potentially bring. Our objective is to perform close to our potential and execute effectively at the crucial moments. That will make us a formidable opponent for Belgium tomorrow."
India, who have been hit by injuries to Ramandeep Singh and Nikkin Thimmaiah, do not have a great recent record against Belgium, losing their last two matches, including one during the Europe tour not too long ago. However, they did beat the Belgians in the 2012 Champions Trophy, and India will look to that big-match win when they head into the game on Saturday.
Captain Sardar Singh, the one truly world-class player in the lineup, believes keeping drag-flicker Tom Boon quiet will be key to India's fortunes. "The team is all set for the opening match against Belgium and we are confident to make a winning start," he said. "We are putting our strategies in place for each player of Belgium with great focus on their drag flicker Tom Boon.
"We all are aware that he is one of the best drag flickers in the world today and hence the team is working on how best to tackle him. Keeping him under control will be like half the game won."
The tournament kicks off with a match involving one of the tournament favourites Australia, who take on Malaysia, with India's encounter against Belgium then followed by England clash against Spain. The women's World Cup will be held simultaneously, with three matches – New Zealand vs Belgium, Australia vs South Korea and Netherlands vs Japan – taking place on Saturday.