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How ‘sharp’ India trumped Argentina

Coach Graham Reid lauds team’s mentality of never giving up

How ‘sharp’ India trumped Argentina

India scored decisive last-minute goals in both their FIH Pro League games against Argentina in Bhubaneswar. FIH

Tribune News Service

Indervir Grewal

Chandigarh, March 21

When their Pro League tie against Germany got postponed due to Covid-19, India’s fortnight-long break from international hockey got extended by another week. The players got leave from the camp for a couple of days. The “little bit of rest and relaxation” that the “boys enjoyed” did wonders, felt Indian men’s hockey team coach Graham Reid.

  1. The positive that has come out of the game is the mentality of never giving up and making sure that we continue to fight until the very last minute and last second. Graham Reid, India coach

“It was good to get a break,” Reid said before the first match of India’s Pro League tie against Argentina. “They are back sharp again, which is really important. Hopefully we will see that in the game,” he added.

Having been frustrated by India’s varying intensity levels, Reid knew the importance of staying sharp against world No. 4 Argentina. World No. 5 India were not only facing a higher ranked team for the first time in the season, but also a team known for its doggedness.

A game against Argentina is always a battle of attrition. The Argentinian team is not just a tight defensive unit, but its players are unrelenting in the way they keep badgering the ball carrier. They keep sticking in tackles, making acrobatic interceptions, and they bring a robust physicality to the game, budging their way to the common balls.

To compete against Argentina, India needed to be their sharpest; and the players turned up in the right frame of mind. They matched the visitors in the physicality and the relentless pursuit of the ball. India were particularly brilliant in keeping quiet the tricky Argentine forwards, who can easily break through a defence with body swirls and 3D skills with the ball.

Despite both teams going through phases of ups and downs, it was a thrillingly close contest. India would be disappointed to not get more out of the first game, and Argentina would be crestfallen to leave without a single point from the second match.

Bouncing back

Against France and Spain, India had lost their second matches after winning the first. But against Argentina, they managed to improve in certain areas to take the second game. “We played very well in most of the game,” Reid said of the first game. “Bits and pieces that we need to improve on. We created a lot of opportunities but didn’t finish our chances. The plan is to finish our chances and put some scoreboard pressure on them,” he added.

Reid would be pleased by how the second game went almost according to plan. In the first game, India scored two goals despite 12 shots and 32 circle entries. Though the number of shots (6) and circle entries (14) fell in the second game, India scored four goals. Reid also emphasised on the “need to capitalise on the penalty corner opportunities” during the first game. From wasting five penalty corners in the first match, India converted three of four in the second.

Chasing the game for the majority of the second game, Argentina were mentally drained. They had to toil to regain parity. When they did get the equalisers, a fresher India hit them again.

Reid, though, was a bit concerned about his players throwing away possession. “We threw too many long balls,” he said during the second match. “We want to focus on possession, and moving the ball around, in and out… a little bit more control over the game, we are giving the ball away a bit too much,” he added.

India had around 38 and 42 percent possession in the first and second games, respectively.

Reid, however, was impressed by his team’s never-say-die spirit. “This win is a confidence booster as even if we are down, we know that we can make a comeback. It’s a nice thing to have in our armoury but I don’t want to keep relying on it,” he said.

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