Rotterdam: With their eyes firmly set on next year's World Cup, a new-look India will start as overwhelming favourites against minnows Ireland in their opening match of the men's competition of the FIH World League Round 3 on Thursday.
However, it won't be easy for the Indians as they have been grouped alongside mighty Netherlands and New Zealand apart from Ireland in Pool B of the World League Round 3 (Semi-final), which is a qualifying tournament for next year's World Cup in Hague. While Pool A consists of Australia, Spain, Belgium and Germany.
Currently ranked 11th in the world, eight-time Olympic champions India enjoy an upper hand over 15th ranked Ireland who will start the game as underdogs in the event to be held from June 13-23.
The Indian team for the World League Round 3 is a fine combination of youth and experience with senior drag-flicker Sandeep Singh and forward Shivendra Singh making their comeback into the national squad.
Sandeep, who was left out of the Indian squad for the FIH Hockey World League Round 2 held here earlier this year, returned to the national side along with Shivendra, who last played for India in last year's London Olympics.
Sandeep, incidentally, was a part of the Indian squad that went to The Netherlands in April for an invitational tour.
Star mid-fielder Sardar Singh will lead the 18-member Indian team, while drag-flicker V R Raghunath has been named his deputy.
However, India will miss the services of midfielder Danish Mujtaba and Gurvinder Singh Chadi, both of whom have been ruled out of the tournament due to injuries.
While Gurvinder continues to be in the sidelines because of a prolonged ankle injury, Danish is suffering from a ligament tear.


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