FIH Pro League: Indian Men's Hockey Team Aims to Extend Dominance Under New Coach Fulton

Their first opponent will be the reigning Olympic champions, Belgium.

The Indian men's hockey team, filled with renewed vigour, strives to maintain their impressive form and secure their top position in the FIH Pro League standings as they embark on their European journey. Their first test awaits them against the reigning Olympic champions, Belgium.

Alongside challenging matches against the Netherlands and Argentina in Eindhoven, India's ascent to the pinnacle of the 2022–23 Pro League table, undefeated against Germany and Australia, showcases their resilience. Notably, they garnered three decisive victories in the Rourkela leg, including a bonus point from a shootout against the Kookaburras.

India's Commanding Pro League Performance

In the current standings, India holds the top position with a remarkable total of 19 points, achieved through five clear victories in eight matches, along with two points secured from shootouts.

Upcoming Tests for the Indian Hockey Team

Under the leadership of Harmanpreet Singh, the Indian team is determined to maintain their winning streak as they face Belgium on Friday and Great Britain on Saturday at the renowned Lee Valley Stadium.

Great Britain's Impressive Recent Performances

Great Britain, the hosting nation, enters the upcoming matches with the confidence gained from their recent triumphs in Christchurch, New Zealand. They secured impressive victories of 5-2 and 6-1 against New Zealand and also overcame Australia with scores of 2-1 and 3-3 (4-2 SO), accumulating a total of 19 points from eight games. Their record includes four clear wins and three points acquired from shootouts.

Belgium's Quest for Ranking Improvement

Meanwhile, Belgium aims to improve its standing from its current seventh position in the Pro League rankings. With only four matches played in this edition of the tournament, Belgium has achieved victories against both Argentina and Germany, demonstrating their potential for climbing higher in the charts.

India Team to continue under new coach Craig Fulton

The Pro League matches taking place in Europe will serve as a significant challenge for India's new head coach, Craig Fulton. It remains to be seen how he adapts to the demanding role after succeeding the Australian coach, Graham Reid, who led the team to a historic bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics.

India's Tokyo Triumph

In the previous encounter, India emerged victorious with a score of 3-1 against Great Britain during the quarterfinals of the Tokyo Olympics.

"Though we haven’t played Great Britain regularly, we are aware of the team and the players, and what they can bring to the table, particularly while playing in front of their home crowd," said India vice-captain Hardik Singh.

India has faced Belgium in 19 matches since the 2016 Rio Olympics, with Belgium winning nine, India winning eight, and two matches ending in draws. In the previous Pro League edition, India lost 2-3 and won 3-3 (5-4 SO) against Belgium in Antwerp. Harmanpreet expressed excitement for the renewed rivalry.

"As a team, India have built a healthy rivalry against Belgium, particularly over the last 5-6 years. We enjoy playing this opponent, and the team is always pumped up to do well against them," he said.

"If you look at the stats, we have always produced close encounters against Belgium. The mind frame that we are in at the moment, we are confident of yet another good show against them," added Harmanpreet, who also happens to be the highest scorer in the league so far with 11 goals.