The Indian men’s hockey team has returned from Argentina with some great results against the reigning Olympic champions. Graham Reid’s men won both their FIH Hockey Pro League matches and even during the practice matches in the tour they showed great signs.
Before the crucial FIH Pro League fixtures, India started building momentum with a 4-3 win and 4-4 draw in the first two practice matches to start the tour. The practice matches allowed the Men in Blue to get in a groove and helped them defeat Argentina in the important matches. Reid’s men ended the tour with two more practice matches and there India lost 0-1 in the third practice match and then redeemed themselves with a 4-2 win over the South Americans before returning to India.
Indian skipper Manpreet Singh who was delighted with the way the team played was not much bothered about the results. He rather wants to keep on improving with a podium finish in Tokyo being the target.
“No doubt winning against a really strong team like Argentina in their home ground is a big confidence booster, but we shouldn’t read too much into the results. We need to keep our heads down and remain focused on the areas that require improvement based on our performance here. Our task is not over until we stand on the podium in Tokyo,” stated the 28-year-old.
He pointed out the team’s mentality as the biggest takeaway from this tour of Argentina where the Indians have stuck to their plans even when they have had early setbacks. The ability to come back and be in that right mental frame is important for the Men in blue. For example, Manpreet did manage to set up an inch-perfect penalty corner and it was converted by vice-captain Harmanpreet Singh in the first FIH Pro League encounter against Argentina. The goal came in the last 30 seconds of the game forcing the penalties where eventually Reid’s men triumphed.
“After the matches, we feel there are a few areas we need to improve upon. While we did well as a team to come back into the game even in the dying minutes of the match, we feel we could have started better. Also playing consistently, keeping up the pressure on the opponents in all quarters is another area we need to work on.”
The Indian team will now analyse these matches on their return to the SAI centre in Bengaluru. Then they will be looking to travel Europe for their six FIH Pro League fixtures. They will play back to back doubles headers against Great Britain, Spain and Germany in London, Valencia and Hamburg respectively through May.
Manpreet was very pleased that the team is getting to play such matches against such quality oppositions just ahead of the Tokyo Olympics which will make them ready for the big event. “We are really grateful to Hockey India and SAI for ensuring we get to play these important matches ahead of the Tokyo Olympics despite the pandemic. By now, we are used to living in a Bio-bubble and we understand this is the norm today,” he added.
“It was great to resume the FIH Hockey Pro League with 5 points from Argentina and we would like to keep this momentum going into the matches in Europe. These matches will surely be a litmus test for us before Tokyo,” concluded the upbeat Indian skipper.