Rejuvenated India eyes win against Argentina to seal QF berth
(Sourced from PTI)
A resurgent Indian men's hockey team would look to seal a quarterfinal berth but defending champions Argentina won't be an easy challenge to overcome when the two sides clash in their penultimate pool match of the Olympics on Thursday. With two wins out of three games, India is sitting pretty at the second spot in Pool A, which is being headed by Australians.
Argentina, currently ranked seventh in the world, is placed at the fourth spot with one win, a draw, and a loss respectively. After a hard-fought 3-2 win over New Zealand, the Indians, who are in pursuit of their first Olympic medal in more than four decades, were drubbed 1-7 by Australia before the eight-time champions bounced back to outplay Spain 3-0.
India's last of the eight Olympic golds came way back in the 1980 Moscow Games. The Los Leones, on the other hand, drew their first game 1-1 with Spain, won 2-1 against hosts Japan and lost 2-5 to Australia.
The 3-0 win over Spain has definitely raised the confidence level of Manpreet Singh-led side, especially after the morale-shattering loss to Australia but according to India's chief coach Graham Reid, "a lot of improvement is needed in every aspect of the game." India conceded as many as eight penalty corners against Spain on Tuesday, a statistic that continues to worry the team's Australian coach.
"A lot of things to work on from an improvement perspective. The fact that we gave too many corners (against Spain), that's always a concern when that happens. But the team did really well in terms of defending," he had said. Manpreet Singh's men played high-pressure hockey from the word go against Spain and it is something they would like to continue against Argentina.
Going by head-to-head records in recent times, India definitely has an edge over Argentina. In the FIH Pro League doubleheader earlier this year, India beat Argentina 3-2 in the shoot-out after the first game ended 2-2. They also registered a comfortable 3-0 win in the next game in Buenos Aires.
In the practice matches, which were part of Olympic preparation for both teams, the Indians registered a 4-3 win, 4-4 draw, 0-1 loss, and 4-2 win respectively. "No doubt, we had a successful Argentina tour, but this is a totally different occasion. So, we can't take any teams lightly on a platform like the Olympics," India captain Manpreet Singh said.