India made a strong start to their tournament with a convincing victory over Spain, but they will have a stiff challenge when they play an equally outstanding England in their second group match of the FIH Men’s Hockey World Cup here on Sunday.
At the brand-new Birsa Munda stadium in Rourkela, Odisha, on Friday, India defeated Spain 2-0 with a nearly faultless performance in their opening Pool D match.
The home team cannot let up on the effort and calibre it displayed against Spain, since England is also on a high following a 5-0 demolition of Wales in their opening game.
The 21,000-seat Birsa Munda stadium was packed with spectators who encouraged India to play excellent attacking hockey in the first two periods. Amit Rohidas, a local hero, scored from a penalty corner, and Hardik Singh doubled the lead with a spectacular solo effort.
The next play was a defensive masterclass by captain Harmanpreet Singh and his backup, Rohidas, which left head coach Graham Reid speechless.
With at least one goal scored in each of the four quarters by England, Harmanpreet and the others would try to put on another solid defensive performance.
The quarterfinals will be closed for India if they defeat England, so a victory is crucial. The hosts will bet on their prospects of winning the pool, which is regarded as a group of death, against Wales, the group’s lowest-ranked team at 15th.
At fifth in the world rankings, England is one rung above India, and there isn’t much to distinguish the two teams historically or in the last year.
The two teams faced off against each other three times last year; the final match, which was played at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, ended in a 4-4 draw. Both games, which took place in April, ended in a 3-3 draw in the first leg of the FIH Pro League before India triumphed 4-3 in the next match.
Both Phil Roper, another productive player in Birmingham, and Nick Bandurak, who led all scorers at the 2002 CWG with 11 goals each, scored against Wales. England scored three field goals, with Liam Ansell scoring twice from penalty corners and Nicholas Park scoring the third.
In the past, India has enjoyed a 10–7 advantage over England in victories, with four games ending in draws. On Sunday, the following game will begin at 7 IST.