With solid ground work after two back-to-back national training camps at the Sports Authority of India, Bengaluru, the Indian men’s hockey team look upbeat and well-prepared for this week’s Champions Trophy.
Taking on 13th ranked arch-rivals Pakistan in the opening match on Saturday, India ranked much higher at world number six should have no qualms in overcoming the challenge albeit they keep their emotions in check and stick to the game plan.
Reflecting on the same, chief coach Harendra Singh said that kicking off a campaign with a win is vital to set the momentum for the rest of the tournament.
“Getting off to a winning start is vital because it sets the momentum for the rest of the tournament. There will be no room for emotions when we take on Pakistan. The team will play against them like any other team where we go for the three points. We have prepared well for this tournament and are confident of a good performance. Our focus will be on playing to the structure and executing our strategies against each opponent without making any errors,” asserted the experienced Indian coach.
Over the past year, India had enjoyed convincing victories over their nemesis right from the Asian Champions Trophy in 2016, when they had beaten Pakistan in the final.
This performance was followed by a dominant double victory against Pakistan in the Hockey World League Semi Final in London 2017 and the Asia Cup in Dhaka where India lifted the title after 10 years.
But at the recent Gold Coast 2018 XXI Commonwealth Games, the unpredictable Pakistan with most of their senior players back in the fold scored an equalizer through a penalty corner in the 60th minute through Mubashar Ali to split the points.
Incidentally, it was the first match of the tournament and penalty corners will be Pakistan’s preferred weapon yet again when they take on India on Saturday at the BH & BC Stadium in Breda.
“There is no doubt we need to be smart in our defence, not allow easy penetration into the striking circle. We must avoid conceding PCs against Pakistan or Argentina who we play in the second match,” stated Harendra categorically.
On Sunday, India will take on Olympic Champions Argentina. India has played Argentina twice in the past six months.
At Odisha Men’s Hockey World League Final Bhubaneswar 2017, though India held sway, they lost to Argentina by a goal (0-1) conceded through a penalty corner in the sem-final while at the 2018 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup India had lost 2-3 in a close encounter.
“The conditions and the team was different in both these tournaments. Argentina’s biggest strength is their PC conversion and we must be careful in our defence when we play against them,” added a confident Harendra.