Much at stake for Men in Blue

Semifinal clash against Argentina

Bhubaneswar: Argentina will definitely be wary of an ‘unpredictable’ India when the two sides clash in a semifinal game of the Men’s World Hockey League Finals (HWLF) at the Kalinga Stadium here Friday. Both teams finished at the bottom of their respective pools, but now have a chance of making it to the title-round clash.

The hosts, who were not so impressive in their pool encounters, sprung up a much-improved show against World No.3 Belgium and stunned them in the quarterfinals. And Olympic champions Argentina have noted this aspect of India’s game and are mentally prepared for a tough encounter. 

Indian coach Sjoerd Marijne stated that he expected his boys to continue in the same vein that they did against Belgium.

“The most important thing is that we scored goals, converted penalty corners against Belgium. I have been saying all along that if we utilise the opportunities that come our way, we will be a tough side to beat,” Marijne told reporters here Thursday.

“(Against Belgium) our defending was better. But if you had noticed then against England and Germany we had created plenty of chances. However, if you don’t score things appear bad,” added the Dutchman.

Marijne also said that he is very happy with the way the youngsters have played the tournament. “It is a big exposure for the youngsters in the side and they are hungry for more success,” Marijne pointed out.

“They have been together for some time now and they know what is expected from them. They have put their hands up and know what is expected of them tomorrow (Friday),” the coach added.

Marijne also informed that he is happy the way skipper Manpreet Singh is motivating the boys.  “I am really satisfied that Manpreet has taken up the responsibility talk to the guys and educate them about the importance of the game tomorrow. It just shows that he is maturing quickly as a leader,” Marijne stated.

It must be stated here that the only defeat the Olympic champions suffered at Rio was against India when they lost 1-2. Overall also the Indians have a better record against the Los Leones winning 26 of the 46 games the two sides have played.

However, history will have no role to play Friday; in fact the Indians can create history. Their best-ever show has been a bronze in the last edition of the tournament at Raipur in 2015. If they reach the finals, they will guarantee a silver for the nation and create a new page in the annals of Indian hockey.

That should be the perfect motivation, shouldn’t it?

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