India have done well so far, in the ongoing tour against Olympic champions Argentina.
The FIH Pro League action resumes with Indian Men’s Hockey Team facing Argentina in back-to-back games on April 10th and 11th. Over the course of the two practice games, Manpreet Singh and the Team showed that they mean business over two high-scoring encounters.
India hit the ground running straightaway in Buenos Aires with a thrilling 4-3 win in the first encounter. However, the Olympic Champions will be encouraged after earning a draw in the second game, which saw both teams score four goals each. There were plenty of encouraging signs for Chief Coach Graham Reid. Skipper Manpreet, Varun Kumar and Rupinder Pal Singh were on target despite being out of action for lengthy periods.
The forwards in particular have been impressive and created loads of goalmouth opportunities. Mandeep Singh, Nilakanta Sharma and Dilpreet Singh had good outings. However, Reid stressed the importance for the defence to be frugal at the back. In both the practice games, Argentina managed to make their way back in the contest after India’s rapid start.
Captain Manpreet Singh was happy with the way he and his team have begun against the reigning Olympic Champions. “Both practice matches were good. They were hard-fought games and quite intense,” he said. The Indian Captain feels his team could further improve, both in attack and defence.
“Having missed match practice for much of last year, we have to cash in on the opportunities we get. It is good for us that we are tested against a tough opponent like Olympic Champions Argentina. In both games, we showed a lot of fight and created loads of chances. But we could have scored even more whilst conceding fewer goals. We are working hard to be more compact at the back and being more ruthless going forward,” the 28-year-old added.
The pressure, though, will be on the hosts. Argentina succumbed to twin defeats against Germany last week, which saw them slip to sixth place in the FIH Pro League table. India are currently level on points (10) with Argentina at fifth place but have played four matches fewer. The Indian side’s solid start to the tournament last year also hands them a bit of a cushion but will be wary of a wounded Argentinian side attempting to make a strong comeback.
The Indian players peaking at the right time also bodes well keeping the Tokyo Olympics in mind. This will be the senior men’s team’s last bit of competitive action before the big-ticket event.
Manpreet is also relishing being back on the field and wearing the Captain’s armband again. “Yes, last year was a difficult time for all of us. We had played very good hockey in the initial round of the FIH Pro League games against tough opponents such as Belgium, Netherlands and Australia,” he weighed in.
“We worked hard in our training camps and tried our best to recreate the intensity of a high-stakes international match. That is why the upcoming matches are so important to us. One of the areas we really focussed on during our national camp in SAI, Bengaluru, was to make more circle entries and finish chances. Converting Penalty Corner opportunities is another aspect we wanted to get better at,” said Manpreet.
Manpreet refused to read much into Argentina’s recent slump in form handing India a slight advantage going into the two FIH Pro League encounters. “Argentina are a quality side and we have had some good matches against them over the years. We need to focus on our game. Like I said, each match we play is a learning experience and look forward to a good take on the home team in the double header,” Manpreet signed off.
India will next face Argentina in the FIH Hockey Pro League match on 11 April 2021 at 0130 IST.