Junior World Cup: India face tough start

Junior Hockey World CupOn paper, it may be argued, India have an advantage by the slimmest of margins over their Pool C rivals (IE Photo Praveen Khanna)

Waiting for the Junior Hockey World Cup trophy unveiling ceremony to begin at the team hotel on Thursday, captain Manpreet Singh, who was happily chatting away with his teammates in one corner of the plush hall, spotted a familiar face in the crowd. He whispered something to Mandeep Singh, and the duo excused themselves from the conversation, made their way towards the tall bloke with flowing blond locks and embraced him.

It was Floris Evers, former Dutch international and now manager of the Netherlands under-21. At that moment, however, he was Manpreet and Mandeep's Ranchi Rhinos teammate. Rhinos coach Gregg Clark, who now trains the India colts, looked on approvingly. Pleasantries exchanged, they joked around for a while before going back to their respective places.

The next time Evers and Manpreet see each other, on Friday evening, the meeting will curt and more formal - a nod, perhaps, or a shake of hands. Having shared success 10 months ago in the HIL, they will now be plotting each others fall as the two title favorite teams square off in their cracker of a World Cup opener.

On paper, it may be argued, India have an advantage by the slimmest of margins over their Pool C rivals.

India are an experienced bunch. All of them have played at the senior level - they have 334 international caps between them. The corresponding number of the Netherlands is 0. But that could be because the Netherlands senior team is very tough to break into and that, with senior World Cup scheduled to played at home (The Hague) in 2014, they haven't been looking to experiment as much as the Indian team have been.

The next parameter is the head-to-head record. The Indian colts played three matches against their Dutch counterparts during their European trip this summer and the results were a win, a loss and a draw.

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