Lucknow: Hosts India on Friday entered the final of the men’s Hockey Junior World Cup after a hiatus of 15 years and the team’s head coach Harendra Singh said it is now up to the players to decide the colour of the medal on Sunday.
India defeated Australia 4-2 in the shoot-out after the second semi-final ended 2-2 at the end of regulation time.
India will now face Belgium in the summit clash on Sunday and Harendra has requested his wards to show their character on what is termed as the "biggest game" of their short career.
"Australia showed great fightback. But I really want to congratulate my players for making a terrific comeback in the match. All the players showed their eagerness to win the match.
"The victory goes to the entire team. I owe this victory to the players. The 18 December match is the biggest game for these boys. I would fold my hands and request them to show their character on that day. They need to decide which colour of medal they want to see hanging in their necks," an emotional Harendra said at the post-match press conference.
Harendra said going by history Lucknow has always been a happy venue for him.
"I have never returned empty-handed from this ground. The day it was announced that Lucknow will host the World Cup I told the boys that you will win a medal but you have to decide which colour it will be," he said.
Harendra said the best thing about his team is that they never tend to lose structure when put under pressure.
"I prepared the team mentally as well as physically. I don’t agree we lost structure. The best thing about this team is that we never lose structure in the last two-and-half years. Yesterday (against Spain) our execution was not up to the mark," he said.
Indian men’s senior team chief coach Roelant Oltmans, who is the manager of the junior side in this tournament, agreed with Harendra and said it is now time for the Harjeet Singh-led side to show their "perfect" hockey on Sunday.
"There is always room for improvement as I always say. In the first half we didn’t put much pressure on the opponents. Energy level was little lacking in the first half. But the boys responded very well to what we have discussed at half time," the Dutchman said.
"Our strength is pressure and speed. Our first goal was as a result of speed and the second goal was for pressure.
"Now it’s time for the perfect game and that we are going to show on Sunday. Our players will bring their best hockey in the most important match of the competition," Oltmans added.
Australia coach Ben Bishop, expectedly, was disappointed with the end result but said it was an evenly-contested battle.
"Like the other semi-final and the quarterfinals yesterday (Thursday), it was an even match. Top eight teams here have shown they are all at great competitive level. Yes the momentum did swing up and down. We started off really well and had the momentum early. But we probably led India have too much ball possession and control through middle part of the match," Bishop observed.
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Updated Date: Dec 17, 2016 13:49:46 IST