The Indian men’s hockey team would be expected (going by their current form) to glean the much-needed three points against Wales, but they need much more than a ‘win’ – they need a ‘comprehensive victory’ to nose ahead of England and top Pool D, and seal their quarterfinal spot without having to feature in the crossover stage. Remember England had eased past Wales 5-0 earlier in the tournament, and India may need a scoreline in excess of five-six goals or even to book their quarterfinal berth as Pool D toppers – of course, they have the option of making the last-eight stage through the crossover route. A big win, however, may not be needed if Spain upset the applecart of England or settle for a draw assuming India pip Wales.
Interestingly, this is the first time that India is facing Wales in any other tourney other than the Commonwealth Games! Mind you, Wales are making their World Cup debut. The Blueshirts have faced Wales on last three occasions at the Commonwealth Games only. Five months back, the Graham Reid-coached side easily rolled over Wales 4-1 at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games with current skipper Harmanpreet Singh slamming a sizzling hat-trick and Gurjant Singh scoring another as Wales drew solace from a late Gareth Furlong goal.
India had previously met Wales five years ago at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games – it was the only occasions when Wales gave India a run for their money! Wales kept chasing India and were on level terms -2-2 in the third quarter and again 3-3 in the closing moments before SV Sunil produced the match-winner with one minute left. Gareth Furlong was the bedrock around which the Wales resistance was built – the drag-flicking fullback slammed a splendid hat-trick to make India sweat.
Prior to this India met Wales at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games where they won 3-1 riding on PC goals by Vokkaliga Raghunath and Rupinder Pal Singh and a field goal by Gurwinder Singh Chandi.