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Suryakant Jena

Bhubaneswar: With Netherlands thrashing Pakistan 5-1 to wrap up the league round of the on-going Men’s Hockey World Cup on Sunday, all eyes have now shifted towards the hosts India who will play its crucial quarter final on December 13.

Netherlands which finished in second place of Group D will play a crossover match against the third placed Canada of Group C on December 11. The winner of the match will play the quarter final match against India on December 13.

After India’s emphatic entry to quarter finals with two thumping wins and a narrow draw against the top Belgium side, sports pundits have now started to speculate team India’s quarter final prospects.

While fans are optimistic that performance of the Men in Blue will take them through to the semis, experts have cautioned the hosts to prepare for a tough quarter final encounter whether it is against Canada or Netherlands.

“India has been playing as a very balanced side, be it attacking or defending. So we hope that it wins the quarter finals to secure a semi-final berth,” said a fan.

“Most teams will play completely different game than what they used to do in preliminary stages of the league. In knock out stages, we may see games just like the last league encounters. It is going to be very interesting,” said team India coach Harendra Singh.

Experts say that India’s last performance against the Canada will definitely provide them a boost in case they face the North American side in its quarter final encounter but the real test could be a match against European heavyweights and World no-4 Netherlands.

“My personal view is that India should prepare themselves for Netherlands as it could prove to be a big challenge in their prospects of winning silverware,” former India Hockey player Lazarus Barla said.

India opened its campaign with a thumping 5-0 win against minnows South Africa before narrowly missing out on a winner against powerful Belgium.

The hosts had to settle for a 2-2 draw against the World no-3 Belgian side followed by a 5-1 thrashing of Canada.

In its last league encounter against the North American side, the hosts who only managed a single goal in the first three quarters scored four more goals in the fourth quarter alone to cement their place as automatic qualifiers for quarter finals. India topped its group with 7 points and a better goal difference than Belgium.

On the other hand, Netherlands placed in Group-D won its two matches against Malaysia and Pakistan in a dominant fashion while losing its encounter against top Germany.

The last time both India and Netherlands came face to face in a high voltage clash was during Hockey Champions Trophy held in Breda in June earlier this year. India played out a 1-1 draw with the European giants to enter the final of the trophy before ultimately losing out to Australia.

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