Indian hockey team midfielder Nilakanta Sharma has said the side's focus following the 0-7 drubbing at the hand of Australia in the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games final is to avoid conceding early goals in upcoming tournaments such as the FIH Pro League and the 2023 World Cup in Odisha.
The Indian men's team's recent outing in the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games ended with India clinching silver. However, the big margin of the defeat in the summit clash has made the squad more determined to work hard ahead of the World Cup in Bhubaneswar and Rourkela where the hosts are favourites to secure a podium finish.
Nilakanta said the team is keen to take what they can from the experience of the CWG and come out stronger."We have been going through the video tapes of our matches in CWG ever since the camp started and we have been working to make sure that we don't concede any early goals.
If we start strong, we can go on to build on our performance throughout the game.""We have to face quite a few strong sides in the group stage of the World Cup and we don't want to end up feeling like we haven't performed our best at the end so a good start is crucial for a good showing on home turf," he said.
India are in Pool D with England, Spain and Wales and begin their campaign in Rourkela against Spain on January 13."Our aim at the World Cup is to get a medal, no matter what. We hope to qualify for the knockouts comfortably even though we face strong teams in the group stage and then focus on getting results against any team that stands in our way.
We do have the advantage of having played most of these teams in the FIH Pro League matches and we want to take that experience onto the pitch in Odisha," he said.Nilakanta believes there is a lot of difference in playing the Pro League matches and the World Cup.
"Once we get to the quarterfinals you cannot help but think, what if we lose, but the people in Odisha had been very supportive last time around and I will count on that support to relieve us of any pressure during the upcoming World Cup.
The whole team feels that we need to keep the 2-1 loss against Netherlands in the 2018 World Cup in mind and perform well, like we did in the Olympics and Commonwealth Games. We don't want to be participants at the World Cup, we want to win a medal and we are focused on that."
If he makes it to the World Cup squad, Nilakanta will become the first from Manipur to play in back-to-back World Cups at home."The official squad hasn't been announced yet but yes, I hope to be playing in the World Cup.
I feel proud that I can represent Manipur twice at this event and give my 100 per cent to help the squad win and not feel disappointed at the end," he added.