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16 teams ready to battle it out for FIH Men's Junior World Cup

Bhubaneswar, Nov 22 (IANS) Hockey fever is set to grip the nation as 16 participating teams prepare to battle it out for top honours at the FIH Odisha Hockey Junior World Cup Bhubaneswar 2021, scheduled to begin on November 24.

All four teams in their respective pools will be aiming to finish in the top half of their pool, as the top two teams from each pool will qualify for the quarterfinal.

In Pool A, European heavyweights Belgium will face off against Malaysia, Chile and South Africa.

Defending champions India are placed in Group B, along with Canada, France, and Poland, who all arrived here to battle it out for the title in the past week.

India, led by captain Vivek Sagar Prasad, will be looking to retain the prestigious trophy as they take centre stage on their home turf.

"Our team became champions in 2016 and now our team's aim is to continue to perform in a similar manner," Vivek, who was part of India's historic bronze-medal winning performance at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, said.

"While we did not have overseas competition, the team played some practice games against the senior side in Bhubaneswar, which were quite valuable. Since arriving in Bhubaneswar, we have been getting used to the stadium. The Kalinga Hockey Stadium is truly iconic. It's good that we are getting to train here before we start," India chief coach Graham Reid added on the team's preparations.

India will begin their campaign against France on November 24.

Netherlands, Spain, Korea and USA will lock horns in Pool C. Pool D will see Germany, Pakistan, Egypt and Argentina face off against each other.

Belgium will play against South Africa in the first game on November 24.