A win in the opening match of the Olympics after a hiatus of 12 years, notwithstanding, Indian men’s hockey team will have to lift their game by a notch if they want to challenge the might of reigning Olympic champions Germany in their second pool ‘B’ match on Monday.
India were made to toil hard by minnows Ireland on Saturday to register a fighting 3-2 win, their first in the sporting extravaganza in 12 years. Going by world rankings, India (5th) were the clear favorites to dominate the match against Ireland (12th). Expectedly, the PR Sreejesh-led side started on a bright note and played to their potential in the for majority of the match but they handed the initiative to their opponents in the final quarter. While drag flickers Rupinder Pal Singh (2 goals) and VR Raghunath (1 goal) were bang on target with penalty corners, the forward line was not up-to the mark, missing plenty of scoring chances.
Sreejesh was alert as usual in front of the Indian goal, making quite a few saves but the defense, their perennial problem, was found wanting when the Irish had put relentless pressure in the final quarter, thereby conceding as many as eight penalty corners. But come Monday, the Indians cannot afford to commit the same mistakes against the Germans, who will be eyeing a hat-trick of Olympic golds having pocketed the yellow metal in the last two Games in 2008 Beijing and 2012 London. The record of the Indian team against Germany also puts them against the odds of winning this match. Last match that was won by the Indians against Germany was way back in 1996 Atlanta Games, where they registered 3-0 win in the opening match. After that both the teams made it to the same pool in London Olympics four years ago, where Germany comprehensively beat India 5-2. But in more recent times India have had mixed results against the Germans. India played Germany in the FIH Champions Trophy in London, where Sreejesh led team won a historic silver.
In the Champions Trophy, India took an early 3-1 lead before making defensive errors in the last quarter to draw the encounter 3-3. But India’s campaign against Germany did not go as planned in the recently-held six-nations tournament in Valencia where they lost 0-4 to a full strength German team.Germany started their campaign on a rampage note, thrashing Canada 6-2 in another Pool B match at the Olympics Hockey Center. India’s chief coach Roelant Oltmans knows the importance of tomorrow’s game and said his boys will have to give more than 100 per cent if they are to upstage Germany today.
India’s captain Sreejesh is optimistic about a win against Germany tomorrow. “Though we won narrowly against Ireland, the team is motivated. What matters is that we have started on a winning note and have earned three points. We are pumped up and we always enjoy taking on big teams like Germany. I am sure we will put up a tough fight against them,” said Sreejesh. Well Sreejesh, we would also love you to win against Germany, and it will be a privilege if you bring us some medals as well as make our country proud. This is it for today’s match, stay tuned for live score and live feed of the match.