Olympic hockey champions Germany not taking India lightly

By Jaideep Sarin, IANS,

Chandigarh : Olympic champions Germany may be the favourite in the four-nation Punjab Gold Cup hockey tournament, but coach Marcus Weise believes they will face a strong challenge from India, once a powerhouse of the game.

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Indian hockey is not in the same league anymore. The eight-time gold medallist even failed to qualify for Beijing Olympics.

But Weise said they are expecting a tough fight as Germany face India Tuesday.

“We expect a tough challenge from this Indian side. Any of the four sides could be in the final, not necessarily Germany and The Netherlands,” Weise said here.

“The Netherlands have a formidable side. I expect them to be in the final,” Weise said about Germany’s arch-rival European side.

New Zealand, ranked 7th in world, is the fourth team in the Rs.15 million event organised by the Punjab government.

Four players from the German side that won the Olympic gold in Beijing are here for the tournament. “It is more of an experiment to see how competitive the new players are,” Weise said.

The German side is playing on Indian soil for the first time in 30 years.

“We cannot say the definite reason for not coming to India earlier. But this could be due to clash of dates with our domestic hockey tournaments,” Weise said.

German captain Max Muller said the tournament will be a good exposure as India would host the 2010 Hockey World Cup.

“India should be a competitive side to play against because they will have the home advantage,” Muller said.

Muller said his side had recently finished an indoor hockey tournament and will find it tough to shift gears to outdoor.