It goes without saying that the Indian junior team will carry an extra weight of expectations playing in front of their home fans. And the Indian junior team captain Manpreet Singh will be looking to put their best foot forward in the big-ticket event. “We know expectations will be really high as we are playing the Junior World Cup at home. Pressure will be there, but we won’t allow that to affect our performance. We have really worked hard in the ongoing preparatory camp and our performance in the 3rd Asian Champions Trophy in Kakamigahara, Japan has pepped our morale even further,” Manpreet says in an exclusive interview to Hockey Passion.
The midfielder, who hails from Mithapur in Jalandhar district of Punjab, is considered as one of the most rapidly improving players of the senior team. Wearing the captain armband in the Junior World Cup will obviously mean extra responsibility for the youngster. “I have led the same bunch at the 3rd Sultan of Johor Cup as well as in the 3rd Asian Champions Trophy. Both these stints will stand me in good stead. I hope to lead from the front and help my country corner glory,” he says.
Realistically, does India have the team to win the Junior World Cup? “Look, our first goal is to do well in the league phase – we have to first counter teams like the Netherlands and Korea and reach the quarterfinals. We will be looking to finish in the top-four, of course, it does not mean that we will not be striving to put our best efforts to win the Junior World Cup,” he says with a tone of maturity.
The Indian Overseas Bank (IOB) employee feels staying injury-free will hold the key. “We are fit as a fiddle and will spare no effort in ensuring that we steer clear of injuries during the tournament.”
He believes Germany will be the team to beat in the Junior World Cup. “Germany are the defending champions and strong contenders to win the World Cup. The Netherlands are also formidable and so are Australia. Argentina are also a tough side. No team can be taken lightly,” he says.
Manpreet, who is nicknamed ‘Korea’ because of his haircut and diminutive stature, says India will look to make the most of their strengths. “We are solid in our counter-attacks and penalty corner conversions and hopefully we will use them to our advantage,” he signs off.