Wary of India’s ’12th man’, New Zealand look to ‘influence’ the World Cup pre-quarterfinal | Hockey News – Times of India


BHUBANESWAR: One thing that remains unchanged for foreign teams visiting Odisha is the packed stands. The challenge goes beyond the playing field, where communication amid deafening roars can become a problem. At the ongoing Men’s Hockey World Cup, the decibels went a notch higher in Rourkela with 20,000 fans cheering at the majestic Birsa Munda Hockey Stadium. But the knockout action has shifted to Bhubaneswar, and the Kalinga Stadium will bathe in the Indian tricolour when the hosts and New Zealand pull out all stops for a place in the quarterfinals.
India chose to not practice on Friday, and on Saturday morning coach Graham Reid had to finally bite the bullet and ask for a replacement for Hardik Singh, whose World Cup ended because of a hamstring strain.
But the Black Sticks came out and went full tilt on Pitch 2 at the Kalinga Stadium complex. By then the news of Hardik being ruled out was still under the wraps, and coach Greg Nicol said they aren’t just preparing for India with Hardik or India without Hardik.
“He is obviously a great player, but India have got several great players. So we need to make sure we are not worried about Hardik if he is not playing. We just need to go out and perform well,” said Nicol, talking to Timesofindia.com.
India have replaced Hardik with midfielder Rajkumar Pal.
What Nicol meant echoed in the words of skipper Nic Woods, who hoped for his team to counter India’s 12th man — the crowd in the stands — better than they did in the Pro League matches here last October.
New Zealand lost both the games, but not without a fight. They threw a few punches before losing 3-4 in the first match and 4-7 in the second.
“We are super excited to play India in India in such an important match,” said Woods after the training session on Friday. “India has the 12th man all the time and it’s the crowd. The crowd’s been fantastic, so loud. Every time there’s been a counterattack, we hear it. It (the cheer) is a little bit daunting. We have experienced it before. Luckily, we were here for the Pro League. So yeah, we are super excited for this matchup.”
New Zealand have arrived to the World Cup with a bag of tricks, and while one of those backfired in the pool game against the Netherlands, Nicol said they won’t shy away from trying a few tricks against India.
The Kiwis tried to upset the Dutch by withdrawing their goalkeeper in the first quarter itself, but eventually lost 4-0.
“We certainly will (innovate) if we have to,” Nicols said. “If we think we need to influence the game, whether it’s in the fourth quarter or the first or the second quarter. We know we have got some things that we can do.”
But for starters, New Zealand didn’t expect to be playing India, but their 2-3 loss to Malaysia meant they finished third in Pool C and will now meet the No. 2 team in Pool D, which has turned out to be India after the hosts were pipped to the top spot on goal difference by England.
“Obviously we wanted to come second in our pool after we lost the game against Holland. We were hoping to get a better result against Malaysia,” said the NZ coach.
The visitors aren’t also shying away from the fact that they entered the tournament as underdogs and are a developing team.
New Zealand’s only win of the pool stage was against the debutants Chile, with a 3-1 scoreline, after which they lost to the Dutch and the Malaysian.
“That’s our mentality (being underdogs),” said skipper Woods. “We have been running with that for a while. It’s a good mentality to have. New Zealand is quite small. So we are always the underdog, always the little brother that’s always trying to fight.”

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