Sat, 27 Nov 2021

Bhubaneswar (Odisha) [India], November 22 (ANI): The stage is set in Bhubaneswar as the 16 participating teams prepare to battle it out for top honours at the FIH Odisha Hockey Men's Junior World Cup Bhubaneswar 2021, which is scheduled to begin on November 24.

All four teams in their respective pools will be aiming to finish in the top half of their pool, as the top two teams from each pool will qualify for the quarter-final of the tournament.

In Pool A, European heavyweights Belgium will face off against Malaysia, Chile and South Africa.

"India will be, of course, a force to watch playing at home with the qualities they have," Belgium coach Jeroen Baart said on arrival, according to a Hockey India release.

Speaking on the prospect of playing at the iconic Kalinga Stadium, Malaysia head coach Wallace Tan expressed, "Our team is very excited to play at the Kalinga Stadium as it is a very big and respected stadium. Many big tournaments have been held here, and many legends have played here, so it will be an honour to play here."South Africa head coach Sihle Ntuli picked Belgium to be the toughest team in the group stage. "In our group, we have Malaysia, Belgium and Chile. I would think Belgium would be our toughest opponent. They are previous finalists, so we know it will be a difficult game. But we also think all the games will be difficult," he said.

Chile captain Nicolas Abujatum said, "We were a part of the Pan-American Championship, which was a big part of our preparations. We are excited to play at Kalinga Stadium, as most of us have not played in such a great stadium."Defending champions India are placed in Group B, along with Canada, France, and Poland, who all arrived in Bhubaneswar to battle it out for the title in the past week.

The India Colts, led by captain Vivek Sagar Prasad, will be looking to retain the prestigious trophy as they take centre stage on their home turf.

"Our team became the Champions in 2016 and now our team's aim is to continue to perform in a similar manner," Vivek, who was part of India's historic bronze-medal winning performance at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, said.

"Our preparation for the event was not very long. The weather in Poland is completely different, it is very cold, especially in winters. But we tried to do the best we could do, and I think we will play our best hockey here," Poland head coach Jacek Adrian said.

"We are really excited, we are looking forward to playing in the Mecca for hockey in the world, and the stadium is really impressive. So, we are looking forward to getting a few games in there," Canada captain Christopher Tardif added.

"This is the biggest competition for our young players. The entire world will be here, with different styles of playing. Every young hockey player dream to make it and as the head coach, I wish, with my staff, to have the best team possible to represent our country," France head coach Aymeric Bergamo said.

Netherlands, Spain, Korea and USA will lock horns in Pool C while Pool D will see Germany, Pakistan, Egypt and Argentina face off against each other. (ANI)

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