Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

After kickstarting their FIH Odisha Men’s Hockey World Cup 2023 campaign with a perfect 2-0 victory over Spain, India are all set to face a stern test from impressive England team in its second Pool D match at Birsa Munda Stadium in Rourkela on Sunday.

The hosts cannot afford to drop the intensity and quality it showed against Spain as England too are on a high following an emphatic 5-0 victory over Wales in their opening match.

A win against England is important as that will take India one step closer to the quarterfinals. The hosts will fancy their chances against Wales, the lowest ranked side in the group at 15th, to top the pool, considered a group of death.

England are one rung above India at fifth in world rankings and there is not much to differentiate between the two sides in the past year and historically also.

Last year, the two sides played three matches against each other with their last game, played at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, ending in a 4-4 draw. They played out a 3-3 draw in the first leg of FIH Pro League before India won 4-3 in the second, both games played in April. 

Historically, India has won 10 matches as against seven by England while four games have ended in draws.

Not being able to convert penalty corners can cost India dear against a team like England. The Indian players will also have to be cautious about getting into the referees book as they had to play the major part of the final quarter against Spain without Abhishek, who got a yellow card for a foul.

When asked about the team’s mindset for the all-important game against England, skipper Harmanpreet Singh said, “Learnings, confidence, energy, tone and work rate - we will go with all that against England as these things are very important for the crucial game.”