BHUBANESWAR: Rejuvenated after an exciting victory, India will seek to enter a maiden final when they face Argentina in the final of the World Hockey League at Kalinga Stadium on Friday.
It has been a strange tournament for India. They have played four games and still can not know if they are good enough to win the tournament. And this is after a night in which they beat the favorites of the tournament in Belgium in an exciting shooting. Three games after the league stage, would have been the last team chosen to make the semifinals based on the current form. However, they have managed to get in the fight for the medal. In the previous edition of the tournament, they entered the semifinal after an identical result in the group stage: a draw and two defeats. Then they ended up beating the Netherlands in a shootout to claim the bronze. However, when playing in Argentina, the goal will be to improve this time. Moreover, since this is the third and last edition of the tournament before it is replaced by a Pro League.
They have been dazzled and disappointed in a week’s time. Against Australia and Belgium, they played their best hockey passes to find the intended targets, the forwards made darts runs inside the D, the defenders showed an additional commitment, successful conversions of penalty corners (PC). Against England and Germany, they progressed from bad to poor. They lost their chances to score, they failed in the penalty corners, the defenders made silly mistakes and even captain Manpreet Singh had no color.
Sjoerd Marijne has only been in charge of the men’s hockey team for three months and must have already experienced a range of emotions. His work since the first day has been to make this team consistent. It is a word that the Dutch often use.
Wednesday’s match against the Olympic silver medalist Belgium brought many positive aspects for the hosts. Rupinder Pal Singh’s confidence would certainly have been strengthened after he finally broke his penalty corner when he put India in the lead against Belgium on Wednesday. Strikers SV Sunil, Akashdeep Singh and Mandeep Singh combined well to create opportunities that they missed so much in the previous game against Germany, a team against which their strategy of relying too much on accountants failed. Their focus on better defending and trusting creativity paid off when Belgium, the only team to win their three group matches, went down by two goals in the first half. Even so, they have made flagrant mistakes and polishing them would make them a good world.
Goalkeepers Suraj Karkera started ahead of Akash Chitke and made several blocks before the latter took center stage in the shooting. India conceded the advantage in the next half and, briefly, came back ahead before Amaury Keusters drew. The team put on a hugely improved show. On its way to an Olympic gold medal, the only team that Argentina lost in Rio was India. When it comes to direct records, India won 26 and Argentina 16 with four ending in a draw. The Olympic champions have had an average tournament so far. It has been found missing several areas and failed to record a victory in the league stage before beating England in the quarterfinals.
On Friday he gives India the chance to improve the bronze he won in Raipur. It all depends on which Indian team faces Argentina.