Focus now on World Cup not Olympic qualification, says Sreejesh

Sreejesh is not too worried about India's Olympic qualification and rather wants the team to focus on the upcoming World Cup.

Sreejesh wants the Indian hockey team to learn from its mistakes at the Asian games.   -  Stan Rayan

They had scored loads of goals, had even broken the world record while doing so, but one loss undid all the good work the Indian hockey men had done at the recent Asian Games in Jakarta.

The painful semifinal loss against Malaysia spoiled India’s chances of booking an automatic berth to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics that a gold in Jakarta would have brought.

Many feel that the qualification road to Tokyo will be tough and complicated but Indian captain P.R. Sreejesh does not think so.

“The Asian Games was the easiest opportunity for us to qualify for the Olympics, we missed that, but that was not our last chance. Rather than worrying about what happened in Jakarta, we should learn from the mistakes there,” India's goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh told Sportstar here.

“We are not going to give much importance to the Olympic qualification right now because we have two more years and a few more events for that.”

'Focus is on World Cup'

The focus right now is the World Cup, which begins in Bhubaneswar on November 28, and next month’s Asian Champions Trophy in Muscat, Oman.

“For the Asian Champions Trophy, we can use the preparations we had done for the Asian Games. But the World Cup is a major event and we are also the host. So definitely, we want to perform well and finish on the podium. We need to play better matches to prepare ourselves better, that is very important,” said the 30-year-old.

Though Sreejesh’s immediate thoughts are not on Tokyo 2020, Japan is very much on his mind. The World No. 5 India had blanked Japan 8-0 in the league phase, but the latter stunned everyone by winning the Asian Games gold medal.

“We should learn a lot from the way the Japanese played the final against Malaysia. They were down 2-5, but they bounced back to finish 6-6 (scoring the last goal with 20 seconds to go), and won the title on a shootout,” said Sreejesh.

“That showed what they are made of, they had that something that made them give their hundred per cent till the last minute. That is what we want to do, rather than worrying over what happened to us.”

Against Malaysia, India had conceded a last-minute goal in the semifinal and then lost the shootout and the only consolation was the victory over Pakistan in the bronze-medal match.

“Of course, looking back at the semifinal, we could have fought harder, we had plenty of scoring opportunities, we should have used them well. And the last-minute goal that we conceded affected us negatively,” he said.

“The disappointment is there because we were expecting gold but one bad day, one bad performance, changed the entire thing.” he said.

On Sardar Singh's retirement, Sreejesh said: “It’s a personal choice, he took the call and I appreciate him for that but he’s a legend. I think every player taking up hockey should mark him as their idol.”