India will begin their campaign in the second-leg of the Four Nations Invitational Tournament at the Gallagher Hockey Stadium here on Wednesday against host nation New Zealand.
India began their venture in style by winning 6-0 against Japan, but the team failed to keep up the momentum against Belgium in their second match which they lost by 0-2. Winning 3-1 against hosts New Zealand, who had beaten Belgium 5-4 in their first match, gave rise to the team. The Manpreet Singh-led Indian team entered the final but they lost a closely-contested final 1-2 to Belgium.
In first leg India topped the goal board by scoring nine and conceding just three. Whereas Belgium scored ten but conceded six.
After the first leg finished the chief coach Sjoerd Marijne said,’As a team, we have made progress match after match. We had four young players make their debut and even scored in matches which is good.’
‘We came close to beating Olympic Silver Medallist Belgium which gives us a lot of confidence going into an important calendar year for hockey,’ he added.
‘You must understand that Belgium is here with their complete squad and they are one of the best teams in the world. Competing with them with the team we have here is still a huge step forward,’ he said.
‘The fact that the youngsters have shown confidence in playing the world No.3 ranked side gives me more options as a coach and it is this competition within the team which will help us grow,’ he added.
The coach’s positive attitude will surely uplift team spirit and help with their performance. Coach Marijine also highlighted some mistakes and some missed opportunities. But he believes in the team and said they can create a lot of chances just they need to convert it to goals.
Skipper Manpreet Singh along with the whole team is on the toes to enhance their game. He said, ‘Doing well against a team like Belgium will no doubt give us the confidence for future matches but winning against them will be a big boost to young players.”
‘To be able to do that, there are areas that require improvement and we need to ensure we don’t repeat the mistakes we did in the previous matches,’ he said.
‘While doing well against a higher ranked team like Belgium, who we will play in upcoming major tournaments like FIH Champions Trophy and the Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup Bhubaneswar 2018, is a priority, winning against Japan and New Zealand has also been a plus point for this young squad,’ he added.