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Indian men's hockey team display rare resilience to qualify for the quarterfinals

A brief analysis of India's Olympic campaign thus far and what to expect from the knock-outs

Indian hockey men team defeated Argentina
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Indian Hockey Men Team (Source Hockey India)

By

Subhashish Majumdar

Updated: 2021-07-29T10:09:13+05:30

The Indian men's hockey team have registered two back-to-back wins against Spain and Argentina to book themselves a place in the quarterfinals of the Field Hockey completion of the Tokyo Olympics.

Coming as they did after a disastrous and draining encounter against a marauding Australian side, the results signify the mental strength of a team who have often been derided for being not being resolute enough on the psychological front.

Olympians have often described the significant pressure that is unique to the Games and how recovering from a bad outing used to be an ominous task.

Manpreet and co. wore a determined look as they strode off the team bus before taking on Spain and played like a rejuvenated unit against an experienced Red Sticks side, prevailing by a 3 -0 margin.

The match against Argentina, in particular, tested the resolve of the unit as the South American side attempted to control the pace of the match just as the Indians looked to up the ante. A lesser team might well have lost their cool on the pitch especially after not being able to score in the first half, but Reid's boys maintained their composure and stuck to the task on hand.

The difference between the current bunch and ones of the past is that no individual in the side attempts to play to the galleries at any point in time which augurs well for the side in a testing competition like the Olympic Games where the slightest of mistakes can prove to be fatal for a team's chances.

The PC battery is looking good - at least when not under too much pressure - and the forwards are just about getting their act together at the right time. Harmampreet and Rupinder have both scored 3 while Varun added his name to the score sheet with a superbly taken short corner which gives the team plenty of options ahead of the next round.

Vivek Sagar's goal against the Los Leones was an absolute classic to behold and it all seems to be falling in place for India at just the right time.

Not every side in the competition can afford to crowd their own circle for long periods as the Argentinians did and one hopes the Indian strikers will be able to do better with each circle entry. A total of 28 circle penetrations against Argentina that resulted in 3 goals is not exactly music to the ears, but what matters right now is that the team have managed to advance to the quarterfinal stage with a game in hand.

The Indians will, in all probability, be up against either Germany, the Netherlands, or Great Britain in the quarterfinals and will need to raise their game a couple of notches as neither Spain nor Argentina are anywhere close to the big league currently.

Even so, funny things have been known to happen in high-pressure knock-out games and the Indians have shown in the past that they are quite capable of matching the best on their day.

For now, it's time for Indian hockey lovers to wait to see who the Men in Blue taken on in the quarterfinals and enjoy the action against Asian Games champions Japan on Friday evening.


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