Rio de Janeiro (Brazil): The victory against Argentina on Tuesday was emphatic no doubt but the Indian men’s hockey team is not resting on the result that earned them a historic quarter final berth at the Rio Olympics. In fact, the team is only eager to win the remaining two matches in the Pool B as it will determine the opponent they will play in the last-eight contest on Sunday.
“We are only done with three matches and have two more to go. We need to play harder and better because it will determine whom we play against in the quarter finals. The higher we finish in the points table, the lesser ranked team will play with us from the other pool,” stated a resilient PR Sreejesh, goalkeeper and captain of the Indian team after their 2-1 victory against world No.7 Argentina.
However, Sreejesh was quick to admit that the win against Argentina, who had held India 3-3 in the Six Nations Tournament in Valencia ahead of the Olympics, has brought some relief to the aim is to go much higher and the focus is on achieving that,” he added.
A close 3-2 win against Ireland in their opening match, a nail-biting 2-1 loss against the reigning Olympic champions Germany, and a convincing 2-1 win against Argentina, only goes to prove that the team is gaining the required momentum and is improving their performance match-by-match, assesses Sreejesh.
“If you see, the team has gradually improved from where we started. The opening match with Ireland was tough with a close win. But the second match against Germany was totally different. We had improved considerably from the first match though we did not score as many goals. In the third match, we scored and also played well in all the areas. I can see the consistency in the team and the way we are performing is instilling confidence in every player. If we keep up this momentum, then definitely I feel we can do wonders,” stated the 28-year-old custodian.
Sreejesh, however, did not deny the team’s heartbreak after a 2-1 loss against Germany where they scored the winning goal in the last three seconds of the final quarter.
“It was not about the loss but the goal we conceded in the last three seconds that hurt us badly. The game was under our control and we let it slip away. I was disappointed after that goal simply because in the league stage every match is important. But when the team met for a post-match meeting, we told ourselves that we needed to focus on the future matches. It helped us recover in time to face Argentina,” he said.
On Thursday, India will take on the world no. 2 Netherlands. A win against them, Sreejesh feels, will change a lot of things for India. “Netherlands is one of the top ranked teams in the world and a win against them will give us more confidence. It’s important we keep up the rhythm. They have an experienced line-up and to do well against them means we need to be extremely well-prepared both mentally and physically,” he concluded.
India will go into this penultimate match of Pool B with six points and are currently placed at No.3, after Germany and Netherlands, in the points table