Preview: The Indian men's hockey team will face a do-or-die scenario when they take on hosts the Netherlands in their last group clash at the Hockey Champions Trophy here on Saturday.
After a valiant start to the campaign at the Hockey Champions Trophy, India topped the pool table with wins against Pakistan (4-0) and Argentina (2-1), but a narrow 2-3 loss to defending champions Australia and a 1-1 draw against Belgium has put the team in a tough situation.
File image of Indian hockey team. Image courtesy: Hockey India
PR Sreejesh-led Indian team need a win or a draw against the Netherlands, who are one point behind India at third place in the pool standings.
Sreejesh, however, shown belief in his team has said that they will approach the game like a semi-final.
"It will be like a semi-final match for us and that's how we will approach the match against the Netherlands," asserted goalkeeper-captain PR Sreejesh on Friday.
With Australia cementing their place in the final with ten points and a top spot in the pool standings, the contest for a place in the final against the defending champions boils down to the last round robin match between India and the Netherlands.
Against world number three Belgium on Thursday, the Indian defence lacked the calmness and compactness they showed in their earlier matches.
The team's defence could hardly make a dent on Belgian attack that made 26 circle entries, forced 12 penalty corners of which five were earned in the final quarter and took 26 shots on goal.
While drag-flicker Harmanpreet Singh was India's only goal scorer, Sreejesh's performance stood out as he guarded India's goalpost like a lone ranger making over a dozen saves to keep Belgium from taking lead.
Reflecting on India's performance against Belgium where they draw 1-1, Sreejesh said that the team gave away too many penalty corners something that you cannot afford at such crucial stage.
"Yesterday was a lucky day I feel because 12 PCs is too much to concede and the match could have turned in their favour. We can't afford to give away PCs like that and if we want to see ourselves do well against the hosts then we need to work hard on tackles, reduce unforced errors and we must control the game when it is really required," expressed the skipper.
He further stated that the team played on par with the Belgians until the third quarter but things changed dramatically after Belgium decided to pull their goalkeeper out.
"We played decently in the first three quarters but in the last quarter when they pulled off their goalkeeper and put one extra man in the attack, the game changed completely. We did have a few opportunities to score early on and if that happened the game would have changed in our favour but definitely there are certain areas we need to take a serious look into before we take on Netherlands," he added.
The Netherlands, coached by Max Caldas, began the tournament with a 1-2 loss to Olympic Champions Argentina but came back strongly with a 6-1 win against Belgium and followed it up with a 4-0 win against Pakistan.
However, a 1-3 defeat to Australia on Thursday have pushed them to the third place in the pool standings. But, they will surely come all guns blazing backed by the home crowd when they take on India.
Speaking about the Netherlands team, the Indian captain said that they will have the home advantage but the Indian team is all set for the challenge.
"Yes the Netherlands will have home advantage but playing in front of large crowds is not new to us. We are up for the challenge in the crucial match. We will debrief today after watching videos from yesterday. We will come up with a specific game plan for this decider match. I asked the team, we have seen the trophy on display but how badly do we desire to hold it. It is that burning desire to hold the Trophy that will give us the edge and we are only one step away from the Final," Sreejesh concluded.
With inputs from PTI
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Updated Date: Jun 30, 2018 21:26:19 IST