Arjun Halappa sees India on the podium in Junior Hockey World Cup
A tournament at home brings with it a fair deal of expectations from the home team, and when it’s a sport that has been striving to revive its glorious past, the percentage of those expectations rises. The 10th FIH Junior Men’s Hockey World Cup has brought the same with it.
India will host the biggest global tournament in junior hockey from December 6 to 15 in New Delhi, and the hosts, led by Manpreet Singh, will at least like to repeat the podium finish junior India women achieved earlier this year by winning a bronze.
Talking to IBNLive.com Hockey India selector and former India captain Arjun Halappa concurred, saying that he sees India at least finishing on the podium, though lifting the World Cup will be a huge lift for the sport in India. Your expectations
We want to win the world Cup. There’s no second thought about that. But we have to take it match by match. We should not put unnecessary pressure on the boys. Of course, we all want to win and play to win, but it’s important to take one step at a time and not think too far ahead.
First match against Netherlands
It might [set the tempo]. First match is always important as it is difficult to lose and then come back in a short four-team pool. I think at least a draw is required against Netherlands. And then we should concentrate on finishing in the top two, which will get us through to the knockouts.
Manpreet as leader
He is leading well, being part of the  Olympics and playing with the senior team for close to two years now. He has been with the junior team for the past 7-8 months and has led by example. But captaincy doesn’t matter much in hockey as, like other team games, the result depends on the whole unit. But yes, Manpreet has done very well.
If you ask me, there are a lot of guys who have made a name for themselves. But for me, it’s always about 18 guys. A player may have a good day and a bad day, but it’s always about the team. We always talk about the goal-scorer but forget who created that goal. There are many players [in this squad] who can leave an impact. Manpreet played the  Olympics and there are others like Mandeep [Singh] who have already played quite a few international games. So it’s a very good squad overall.
It’s great to play such a big tournament on home soil. It brings a little bit of pressure; but in front of home fans, the guys will get motivated to go all the way.
Where do you realistically see India on December 15?
I see them on the podium, which is a minimum. Of course, we would love to win the World Cup, but a podium finish is a bare minimum. India have got a fair chance to get into the final playing at home. But I will come back to the earlier point I made. We should look at one game at a time and finish in the top two in our pool. That will get us to the quarter-finals, which should be the first objective.