Indian eye title win to seal 2026 hockey World Cup berth
India narrowly missed out on a podium finish in the previous season, finishing fourth behind the Netherlands, Great Britain, and Belgium
Indian hockey captain Harmanpreet Singh. (ANI Photo)
CAPTAIN Harmanpreet Singh spoke of his wish for India’s hockey team to seal a direct qualification for the 2026 World Cup with a title-winning run in Bhubaneswar, Odisha.
The men’s team arrived on Monday (5) to participate in the FIH Pro League scheduled at the Kalinga Hockey Stadium from Saturday (10) to next Friday (16) and Birsa Munda Hockey Stadium in Rourkela, north India, from February 19 to 25.
India narrowly missed out on a podium finish in the previous season, finishing fourth behind the Netherlands, Great Britain, and Belgium.
“We have just come back from a successful tour in South Africa where we played against France, South Africa, and the Netherlands to begin the Pro League in the best shape possible,” Harmanpreet said in a Hockey India (HI) release.
“A few young players have been included in the squad this time and this will be a great opportunity for them to familiarise themselves with the play style of some of the best teams in the world.”
Five national teams – Ireland, the Netherlands, India, Spain and Australia – will participate in the India leg of the Pro League, facing each other once in Bhubaneswar and once in Rourkela.
“We are taking the Pro League very seriously as winning it would not only mean direct qualification for the FIH Hockey World Cup 2026, but these games will also be crucial in the build-up to the Paris 2024 Olympics,” Harmanpreet said.
India will take on Spain in their first match of the season on Saturday (10), followed by a clash against the best-ranked team in the world, the Netherlands, on Sunday (11).
After a brief break, the hosts will play Australia next Thursday (15), before they face Ireland in the last match of the Bhubaneswar leg next Friday (16).
Meanwhile, the Indian women’s hockey team’s penalty corner woes continued as they suffered their second consecutive defeat at the FIH Pro League, losing 1-3 to the Netherlands in Bhubaneswar last Sunday (4).
Navneet Kaur was the lone goal-scorer for India, who were guilty of squandering as many as six penalty corners.
Their jinx against China continued last Saturday (3) with the home team going down 1-2. Vandana Katariya (15th minute) scored the opening goal of the match but Wen Dan (40th minute) and Bingfeng Gu (52nd minute) completed a comeback win for China.
The Chinese had thrashed India 5-1 in the opening game of the Hangzhou Asian Games last year and again beat them in the semifinals of the continental showpiece event 4-0.
India tried to dictate the tempo in the initial phase with quick passes but failed to create any significant goal threats.