India’s men’s hockey team move up the rankings and take Australia to 4th in the world
After losing back-to-back games to India, Germany, who held first place after winning the World Cup in Odisha in January, fell two places to third place.
At Birsa Munda Stadium, the largest all-seater facility in the world, India have won all four of their FIH Pro League games, including two against Germany and Australia.
Less than two months have passed since India’s shock last round elimination from the World Cup, which took place here and in Bhubaneswar in January. India beat Germany in the two home and away matches, 3-2 and 6-3, while beating Australia in the first and second matches, 5-4 and 4-3 on penalties ( after 2-2 in regulation time).
As well as putting India top of the FIH Pro League points standings, the team led by Harman Preet Singh also moved up two places in the latest FIH rankings, from sixth to fourth.
According to the most recent rankings, the Netherlands, World Cup bronze medalists, are in first place, followed by Belgium in second.
“These things (the world ranking) don’t matter that much to us. We don’t keep that in mind when we play. Our only priority was to convert our chances and keep the pressure on the opponent” said Indian captain Harmanpreet Singh. .
In the ongoing FIH Pro League, where Harmanpreet currently holds the league lead with 11 goals, ahead of Belgium’s Alexander Hendrickx, “some of the youngsters who had the opportunity to show their talent also resisted the opportunity and did very well for themselves and for the team,” said the player (six goals).
The 21,000 seater Birsa Munda Stadium proved to be a stronghold for the Indian team, which went 8 games without losing. The Indian team drew one and won seven games there.
India have appeared in four World Cup matches there, winning three and drawing one. They played two group stage matches and two classification stage matches. India drew 0-0 with England in the second group match after beating Spain 2-0 in the opener.
India went out of the league losing to New Zealand on penalties in the crossover match after beating Wales 4-2 in the final group match at Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar.
The Indian side went on to triumph in two ladder games at Birsa Munda Stadium to finish ninth overall.
“We are happy to keep our record intact here in Rourkela. We haven’t lost a single game here at this beautiful stadium. Birsa Munda Hockey Stadium is very lucky for us,” said Harmanpreet.
“When you have so much love and encouragement from the fans, we want to go out there and win every game,” said the drag-flicker ace who scored twice in the dramatic triumph over the India v Australia on Wednesday.
More than half of Australia’s starting line-up in the FIH Pro League was made up of rookie players who weren’t on the World Cup roster. Additionally, eight members of India’s World Cup squad, including veterans like Akashdeep Singh, Mandep Singhand Nilakanta Sharma – were either benched or rested.
One of the new players who stood out was striker Selvam Karthi, who is now the fourth top scorer in the FIH Pro League.
Others, including World Cup squad members Sukhjeet Singh and Abhishek, also performed well. “There are many positive lessons for us from this excursion here in Rourkela which will keep us in good stead as we prepare for the next Asian Games,” added Harmanpreet, whose drag-flick failed during the Indian campaign of World Cup.
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