Head coach Nagaya Kyoichi said India’s reputation as the reigning Junior World Cup champions is a ‘disturbing factor’ as they prepare for a tough encounter in the seventh edition of the tournament.
“India is always India. They may have arrived without key players who played a major role in the Junior World Cup but their glowing reputation is not to be taken lightly. We have all the respect for the teams competing here including India,” said Nagaya on the side line of the team’s training session on Friday.
“There are a lot of new players in this team and the SOJC is our first big tournament after months of preparation back home. The experience here will be good as we embark on our mission of qualifying for the next Junior World Cup and also as host of the 2020 Olympics,” he added.
The five players who featured in the Junior World Cup in Lucknow, India last year are Takumi Ineyama, Mizuki Ikeda, Takehirio Chiba, Shinichi Kamezaki and Atsushi Sugiyama experience of having played 53 international matches for Japan.
The Japanese made their debut in the 2016 edition and finished third following a 4-1 win over Great Britain for the bronze medal playoff after a 2-2 draw in regulation time.
“After our last 10-day playing tour of Russia in July we have been training at home and this is our first international assignment. The players are getting used to the excitement of playing in the SOJC and we look to positivity in all our matches.
“There will be ups and down but it is a learning process. There are no big ambitions or targets set for the team except to play good hockey,” he added.
The 2020 Tokyo Olympics hosts, in fact, have embarked on a long journey for the next Olympics and the seventh edition of the Sultan of Johor Cup will be their first step.
Meanwhile, India’s junior men’s team captain Vivek Sagar Prasad is confident of a good performance in the SOJC.
"We have a great bunch of players in our squad, who have shown cohesion during our National Camp. All of the team members bring something extra to our style of play and it will stand us in good stead ahead of the tournament's opening match against Japan,” said Prasad.