Breda: After a valiant start to their campaign here at the Rabobank Men’s Hockey Champions Trophy Breda 2018, where the Indian Men’s Hockey Team topped the pool table with wins against Pakistan (4-0) and Argentina (2-1), a narrow 2-3 loss to Defending Champions Australia and a 1-1 draw against Belgium on Thursday has put the team in a ‘do or die’ scenario on Saturday when they face hosts the Netherlands.
With Australia cementing their place in the Final with ten points and a top spot in the Pool Standings, the contest for a place in the Final against the Defending Champions boils down to the last round robin match between India and the Netherlands on 30 June 2018. PR Sreejesh-led Indian team need a win or a draw against the Netherlands who are one point behind India at third place in the Pool Standings. “It will be like a Semi Final match for us and that’s how we will approach the match against the Netherlands,” asserted Goalkeeper-Captain PR Sreejesh on Friday.
Against World No.3 Belgium on Thursday, the Indian defence lacked the calmness and compactness they showed in their earlier matches. The team’s defence could hardly make a dent on Belgian attack that made 26 circle entries, forced 12 PCs of which five were earned in the final quarter and took 26 shots on goal. While drag-flicker Harmanpreet Singh was India’s only goal scorer, Sreejesh’s performance stood out as he guarded India’s goalpost like a lone ranger making over a dozen saves to keep Belgium from taking lead. “Yesterday was a lucky day I feel because 12 PCs is too much to concede and the match could have turned in their favour. We can’t afford to give away PCs like that and if we want to see ourselves do well against the hosts then we need to work hard on tackles, reduce unforced errors and we must control the game when it is really required,” expressed the skipper about the team’s 1-1 draw against Belgium.
He further added that the team played on par with the Belgians until the third quarter but things changed dramatically after Belgium decided to pull their goalkeeper out. “We played decently in the first three quarters but in the last quarter when they pulled off their goalkeeper and put one extra man in the attack, the game changed completely. We did have a few opportunities to score early on and if that happened the game would have changed in our favour but definitely there are certain areas we need to take a serious look into before we take on Netherlands,” he added.
The hosts Netherlands Coached by Max Caldas began the tournament with a 1-2 loss to Olympic Champions Argentina but came back strongly with a 6-1 win against Belgium and followed it up with a 4-0 win against Pakistan. However, a 1-3 loss to Australia on Thursday has pushed them to the third place in the Pool Standings. But they will surely come all guns blazing backed by the home crowd when they take on India. “Yes the Netherlands will have home advantage but playing in front of large crowds is not new to us. We are up for the challenge in the crucial match. We will debrief today after watching videos from yesterday. We will come up with a specific game plan for this decider match. I asked the team, we have seen the trophy on display but how badly do we desire to hold it. It is that burning desire to hold the Trophy that will give us the edge and we are only one step away from the Final,” Sreejesh concluded.