Hockey World Cup: Coach Caldas says Spain are ‘well-prepared to debut against India in front of 20,000 people’

The 2023 FIH Men’s Hockey World Cup kicks off in Odisha on Friday, and hosts India will take on Spain on the opening day in Rourkela. In the buildup to the marquee fixture, Spain coach Max Caldas has said that despite taking on heavy home favourites and a heavily partisan crowd, his side are well-prepared for the clash.

“We have a very diverse group, with youth and experience. We have penalties, goalkeepers, various resources for when the games don’t come to a head, and a great desire to be Spain and fight for the medals,” he was quoted as saying by MARCA. “The preparation has gone as we wanted and we are well-prepared for what is coming, also to debut against India in a stadium with 20,000 people.”

Spain are currently ranked 8th in the FIH rankings, just two spots below their upcoming opponents.

After a less-than-stellar showing at the previous World Cup in India in 2018, Spain made some progress by reaching the quarterfinals at the Tokyo Olympics. Much like their upcoming opponents, they have reset the team since, hiring Caldas who comes with a formidable reputation having taken Netherlands to the World Cup final in 2018, and they have also introduced plenty of youth in their squad.

Álvaro Iglesias, one of the senior members of the Spanish contingent in line to be captain, said that the addition of this youth – and their hunger – can be a positive addition to the team. “I only see positive things and ambition in this team. And we have many rookies, who come from the under-21s who give us a lot of energy,” he said.

Iglesias said he is cherishing the opportunity to play the high-profile fixture. “I think it is the most exciting game you can play,” he was quoted as saying by Hockey India.

“We know the stadium in Rourkela is bigger. We know there will be a lot more crowd there. It will be hard to listen to our teammates and the instructions from the referee as well. But it will be an incredibly exciting atmosphere and we are really looking forward to playing here.”

In a tough group with India, England, and Wales, the new-look Spain side are still in the hunt to qualify for the quarterfinals this year. Group toppers automatically qualify for the final eight, while second and third-placed teams go into the crossover round.

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