Following the completion of the quarterfinal stage of the 13th Hockey India Sub-Junior Men National Championship 2023 on Thursday, which saw some exciting games, the tournament will now move on to the semifinal stage, which will take place on Saturday.
Notably, the Hockey Association of Odisha, Hockey Haryana, Uttar Pradesh Hockey, and Hockey Madhya Pradesh all won their respective Quarter-Final matches to advance to the final-four stage of the tournament, which is taking place at the Birsa Munda Hockey Stadium in Rourkela, Odisha.
For the second year in a row, the defending champions Uttar Pradesh Hockey will face Hockey Haryana in the Semi-Finals.
"We are still not able to perform to the best of our abilities even though we have entered the semi-finals. This team is better than last year's team, and I'm hoping that the boys will play better than we have so far in the tournament. We are confident in our ability to defeat Hockey Haryana; we have previously defeated them. We're here to defend the title, and our preparations are on track," Hockey India quoted Uttar Pradesh Hockey's Manager and Coach Vikas Pal as saying.
Devki Nandan Kushwaha, Hockey Madhya Pradesh Coach, spoke about competing in the Semi-Finals against the home side Hockey Association of Odisha. "Playing against the Hockey Association of Odisha in Odisha will undoubtedly be difficult. But we have recently defeated them and are confident that we can defeat them again," Kushwaha said.
"We will try to score goals in the first few minutes of the game to gain an advantage over our opponents. We are preparing in accordance with our initial plan, which we have so far carried out. I'm hoping to do the same in the Semi-Finals," he concluded.
Hockey Haryana defeated Hockey Punjab 2-1 in the third Quarter-Final match on Thursday to advance to the Semi-Finals. "This tournament has turned out to be a really good one for the boys," Hockey Haryana Coach Sandip Dangi said of their experience thus far. "The team is in excellent condition. We were defeated by the same team last year and finished fourth, but we are confident that we will defeat them this year and only aim for gold. The preparations are going extremely well; we have a special plan in place for the upcoming Semi-Final against Uttar Pradesh Hockey, and we will do our best to carry it out," he added.
In addition, the Hockey Association of Odisha defeated Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Daman & Diu Hockey 7-0 in the last Quarter-Final match to secure a spot in the Semi-Finals at their home ground. "We are receiving immense support from the home crowd. Almost 5000 people have gathered to cheer us on. As a result, we will have an advantage over any other team in that regard," Laxminarayna said.
"Hockey Madhya Pradesh are a really strong team and we were unable to beat them in some of the recent competitions. But this time the team is motivated to overcome any challenge and go all the way in the tournament," the coach said of their matchup in the semifinals.
Interestingly, all four semifinalists earned the most points in their pool matches and have yet to lose a game. The upcoming games are therefore anticipated to be close contests, and the teams that win them will compete for the title at the finals. (ANI)