Junior Hockey World Cup kicks off today
BHUBANESWAR: India's preparations for the 2024 Paris Olympics, and medals beyond, will begin here with the mega sporting spectacle -- FIH Odisha Hockey Men's Junior World Cup -- which is all set to kick-start on Wednesday.
With the senior men's team winning a bronze medal in Tokyo 2020 in August this year after a gap of four decades, Indian hockey lovers are now expecting the junior side to gain experience from here in order to change the color of the medal in 2024 Games.
Though there are nearly three years for the Paris Olympics, it is a fact that the current lot of junior players are likely to form the nucleus of that team and a good start in the World Junior Championships Bhubaneswar 2021 will put them on that route.
With big events like Commonwealth Games, FIH Pro League, and Asian Games lined up next year, chief coach Graham Reid will be trying many of these players in the next couple of years as he builds up a squad for Paris.
Chief coach Graham Reid, who has been made in charge of the junior team, said scouting for talented players for the senior team is a natural process and some of these players have an opportunity to make it to the senior team in near future.
Meanwhile, as the world's top teams gather in Bhubaneswar, all eyes will be on hosts India and the question uppermost on their minds will be whether they can defend the World Junior title they won in 2016 at home in Lucknow.
India are among the 16 teams that have been divided into four groups of four each and will play in the preliminary stage in a round-robin format with the top two teams from each group qualifying for the quarterfinals.
The hosts are in a relatively easier Pool B with France, Poland, and Canada as their opponents. And they will start their campaign against France in the last match of the opening day on Wednesday.
Reigning World and Olympics champion in the senior section, Belgium start the ball rolling with a match against South Africa, and India will take on France in the fifth and last match of the day starting at 8 pm IST.
Though the Junior World Cup started in 1979 in France, India did not participate in the initial competitions, making their debut only in 1997 at Milton Keynes (England) and reaching the final in their maiden entry.
They found further success in the 2001 edition at Hobart when they won the title beating Argentina 6-1 in the final. India went without any success in the next three editions but found success again in Lucknow when the team coached by Harendra Singh beat Belgium in the final to win their second title. IANS