History was made in London in as the Indian men's hockey team bagged a silver medal in the Champions Trophy for the first time in history. A defeat to Australia in the final dampened the mood a bit, but for a seventh-ranked Indian team, ending up as runners-up – and by a small margin at that – to the mighty Australians, was no mean feat.
PR Sreejesh, India's goalkeeper and captain for the tournament has been in sublime form recently. A shootout for the title in the final was perhaps the best way India could overhaul the Australians, and with Sreejesh they fancied their chances. However, the law of averages caught up with Sreejesh in the final and India fell to a 3-1 defeat.
The goalkeeper recalled feeling confident heading into that shootout, but felt the rub of the green favoured their opponents on the day. "I was confident going into the penalty shootout and was hoping to pull off at least two saves. Our players did exceedingly well in regulation time. But couldn't deliver in the shootout and I felt that extra bit of pressure in goal. In shootouts, luck plays an important factor. On Friday, the rub of the green didn't go our way," Sreejesh told Times of India. expressing his disappointment.
The loss on penalties though was a massive improvement on India's previous game against Australia in the competition, that ended in a 4-2 defeat. Sreejesh revealed that the team was quick to learn from that defeat, and very determined to right those wrongs. "After the loss against Australia in the league stage, we did a bit of soul searching and had an extended team meeting. And we were more determined to do better when we stepped on to the field on Friday evening," the Indian cutodian said.
This excellent performance in the Champions Trophy comes just few months before the Rio Olympics, and Sreejesh believes it serves as the perfect shot in the arm for this young Indian team before the games. "I am very happy at what we have accomplished. This silver medal was important for this young team. It is a huge confidence-booster as we head to the Olympics." said the 28-year-old.
India now travel to Spain to play a six-nation tournament before initiating their quest for a medal in Rio, and Sreejesh believes his team can upset the pegging order and claim an unlikely medal . "If we put up a show according to where we stand in rankings, it wouldn't yield us a medal in Rio. So we have to raise our bar. And this team is certainly capable of doing that. The seniors, including Sardar, would be back with us in Rio. Nothing is impossible in the modern game. If we can play consistently well, we may be able to step on to the podium in Rio," concluded Sreejesh, who has undoubtedly been India's best player in the last few months.
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Updated Date: Jun 19, 2016 14:25:39 IST