Grouped in Pool B, India will take on world number 16 Ireland on July 26 followed by world number 7 USA on July 29, apart from facing the Olympic champions in their home ground on the opening day of the prestigious tournament. “The pressure will be on England and not on us,” asserted Indian team skipper Rani on the eve of the match. “Yes they will have the home ground advantage but we are not new to playing in front of big crowds. We have done well against England before and we will carry the confidence of doing well in our recent tournaments including the CWG where we had tasted victory against England in the Group Stage in Gold Coast,” added Rani.
India’s previous appearance at the FIH World Cup was in 2010 when the event was held in Argentina. Rani then was the cynosure of India’s ninth-place performance as she had scored seven goals for the team during the course of the tournament. While there will be a lot riding on Rani during this edition too, she has a unit that has dished out confidence-inspiring performance over the past two years where India even climbed to a career-best ranking of world number 10.
“The team, especially the forward-line does not depend on Rani alone anymore to score goals. We have young strikers including the experience of Vandana Katariya with 200 plus international caps who have scored on multiple occasions for the team. “I like to look at the positives we have and having a drag-flicker like Gurjit Kaur who is one of the best in the world is also an advantage we have,” stated chief coach Sjoerd Marijne.
After having arrived in London a week prior to the start of the tournament, the Indian team has had good training sessions at the event venue Lee Valley Hockey and tennis stadium, including two practice matches against Australia and Belgium. “We have had good match practice against two of the top teams in the World. The team is upbeat and excited ahead of the first match and right now, our only focus is to do well against England. “We have played USA and Ireland too in the past and have specific game plan against them. But for now, our focus is on the first match,” signed off Rani.