Bhubaneswar: After playing a 1-1 draw against lower ranked Japan, India will look to put up a strong show in the second of the four-match hockey Test series at the Kalinga Stadium here on Tuesday.
In the first match, both the Asian teams fought neck-and-neck to take control of the ball. World No.9 India started the match with their attacking game but it was world No.16 Japan that scored the first goal. India equalised thanks to V.R. Raghunath’s successful penalty corner conversion but failed to add another as the visitors’ defence stood tall. In Tuesday’s match, Indian players have to tackle Japan’s long passes as well as contain them in their half to create maximum goal-scoring opportunities.
Against Japan, India are stronger in penalty corner executions due to the presence of Raghunath, Rupinder Pal Singh and Harmanpreet Singh. On the other hand, Japan could not materialise a single penalty corner on Sunday and found it difficult to get past world class goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh, whose impressive run is continuing. India chief coach Paul van Ass insisted on not thinking about Japan’s inferior ranking. “We didn’t play very good yesterday and faced strong challenges from the Japan side. As I told you earlier, don’t see the ranking, they are a very good Asian team, who play in European style speedy hockey,” he said in a release on Monday.
Van Ass also felt that his team needs to execute his defensive strategies properly to avoid conceding early goals like it happened on Sunday.
“We didn’t play as per our expectations in the first half, that’s why we conceded the goal. But we came back after the half-time and played well,” the Dutchman said. “The first match was like testing each other’s strength and we now know the Japanese better. “We are working harder on our defence side and in the next match, we will step on the field with better strategies against the opponents.” Japan chief coach Keonwook Kang said: “Though we drew the match yesterday, we were not happy with our performance and we need to improve in various areas.
“We have a good defence but we need to work harder on attacking. We have a better understanding of Indian players now and we will make strategies around their style. We are looking forward to tomorrow’s game.” The Test series is the groundwork for the Hockey World League (HWL) Semi-Final to be played in Belgium in June.