Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Odisha outtakes: England and Wales set sights on Hockey World Cup opener

Rourkela — England coach Paul Revington says Nick Bandurak’s patient wait on the international sidelines is paying dividends. After playing England age group hockey, the forward had to wait nine years to make his England debut last February. 

The 30-year-old is now making up for lost time, having notched 20 goals in 21 games. He lines up for England’s World Cup opener, a home nations clash against Wales on Friday night at the new 20,000-seater stadium in Rourkela, east India.

“Nick’s record of nearly a goal a game over the last year is exceptional,” said Revington. “His strength is his ability to prepare well, his groundedness and not getting ahead of himself that he’s scoring.

“For someone who has come to the international stage so late in his career is credit to him and he will only get stronger.”

England are vying for a first medal since 1986 after finishing fourth at the last three World Cups.

“There is extra spice added when it comes to these games,” said England’s Sam Ward.

“It’s a case of not being sucked into the battles and they will come out firing.”

Eight years ago, Wales were languishing in Division C of European hockey, playing in a local park in Lisbon.

All but two of the team have full-time jobs and have paid out of their own pocket to play at the World Cup. It is in stark contrast to England’s central programme, one of the best funded in world hockey.

Wales coach Danny Newcombe said: “If you had told me five years ago that we would be going to a World Cup in India, I wouldn’t have believed you. It is an incredible adventure for the boys.”

Spain have participated in every World Cup since the first edition, while be looking to better their 2018 campaign when they finished bottom of their pool.

“For most of us, it’s the first World Cup,” said Spain coach Max Caldas. “That can be a different feeling and we are confident in ourselves. We are not over-confident, just ready to compete.

Rising Indian star Abhishek WORLDSPORTPICS FRANK UIJLENBROEK

“We trust and believe in what we do and sometimes winning or losing is a question of luck. It’s going to be a great match and I’m going to thoroughly enjoy it.”

Spain’s opener will be against hosts India. With a sell out in the offing and India looking to better their last eight performance in 2018 in front of home fans, coach Graham Reid knew of the challenges ahead.

“It’s a dual-edged sword to have such a great crowd with you,” Reid said on Friday. “I know from my playing days, when Australia used to play Pakistan in front of 50000 people.

“The nice part about that was trying to keep the crowd silent. That’s what the opposition is going to do. As far as pressure, for me it is about staying in the moment. That’s what we talk a lot about, staying focused, staying on the next thing. If pressure is getting to you, if you have nerves, it means that you are off-task.

Total Hockey

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