Hockey World Cup 2023: Can India repeat historic 1975 win? – BBC

The last time India won the hockey World Cup, things were quite different.
It was nearly half a century ago and Indira Gandhi was prime minister when India lifted the cup in March 1975 in Kuala Lumpur – eight years ahead of India's first-ever World Cup win in cricket.
It's been a long time since that historic win, 48 years to be precise.
Ranked fifth in the world, India is hosting the hockey World Cup for the second straight edition. Matches are being held at Bhubaneswar and Rourkela cities in the eastern state of Odisha (formerly Orissa).
India have played two matches so far – one against Spain, which they won, and the second against England on Sunday night, which ended in a breathless, goalless draw.
What remains to be decided through their final pool-stage match is whether India will succeed in winning a direct quarterfinal spot or will they need to play a further match.
After two games, India and England are on four points each, with England leading the pool on goal difference.
India has a less troublesome opponent in Wales, who it will play on 19 January. India will want to win by a handy margin to get ahead on goal difference (difference between number of goals scored and number of goals conceded by a team) and find a direct spot in the quarters.
What should come as some relief to Indians is that England have a stiffer opposition in Spain next, which leaves them with little room to race too far ahead on goal count.
To offer a brief primer, the 16 national teams are divided into four pools and India finds itself in Pool D alongside England, Spain and Wales.
Teams play against others in their pool once and pool toppers gain a direct entry into the quarterfinals. The remaining four quarterfinal spots will be decided through crossover matches between those who finish second and third.
Counting pedigree and recent form, world No 1 Australia and reigning Olympic champions Belgium are favourites.
Among the other strong sides in the mix are reigning Pro League and European champions Netherlands, as well as England and Germany.
Of course, India cannot be ruled out. It's a side that brought home an Olympic medal after 41 years and knows a thing or two about ending historic droughts.
In this tournament, India began with an excellent 2-0 win over Spain on Friday. Their second match against England was intense and fast-paced, even if goalless – courtesy some pretty stout defending from both sides.
That it was the second straight night India finished with a clean sheet (no goals conceded) also said much about the quality of their first rushers.
The most agonising frame from Sunday's match though was India's current best midfielder, Hardik Singh, grimacing in pain and being helped off the field after suffering a hamstring injury. Coach Reid later assuaged fans' fears, saying that the injury "isn't as bad as it initially looked".
India also have the benefit of playing at home, and in a state that has always placed sport at the front and centre of its branding exercise.
Odisha stepped in as principal sponsor of the national hockey team in 2018 at a projected cost of 1.5bn rupees ($18.3m, £15m) for five years and extended the sponsorship for a further 10 years in 2021.
The state has hosted two World Cups, and has built a 20,000-seater stadium from scratch in Rourkela for the ongoing matches.
The Birsa Munda stadium, featuring a bright blue turf set against crimson seats, has been a topic of conversation on social media.
In November, the Odisha government put forth an outlay of 10.98bn rupees in the 2022-23 state budget towards the World Cup. The money was to be used for the construction of the Rourkela stadium, for giving the existing stadium in Bhubaneswar an upgrade and to beautify and offer a facelift to both cities.
The public response to the tournament has been positive so far. Tickets to India matches have been sold out and stadiums are packed to capacity on match days.
Odisha, particularly its tribal belt, has traditionally churned out an assembly line of hockey players. The current team has two members – Amit Rohidas and Nilam Xess – from the state.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who is understood to have played a bit of hockey himself during his school days, was prompt to announce a reward of 1m rupees for both players at the start of the tournament.
For members of India's 1975 team, who are in Odisha for the matches at the invitation of the organisers, the good fortune of the present team must seem otherworldly.
During their time, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and the newly-elected Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) bickered over who would sponsor the team weeks before the World Cup.
Players had to request the federal government to intervene and even threatened to not participate in the World Cup at all if things remained unresolved.
The government offered to pay for travel expenses and only then could the team, led by Ajitpal Singh, fly out to play for the World Cup.
The final turned out to be a thrilling India-Pakistan contest, with Ashok Kumar – son of the legendary hockey player Dhyan Chand – scoring the winning goal.
It's still early days in the tournament for promises to be made, but if India's first two matches are anything to go by, the team isn't likely to give up its chance to go all the way on home turf without a good fight.
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