India will hope to bounce back from the two successive defeats in the ongoing Pro League in its upcoming matches against Belgium and Great Britain on Friday and Saturday.
Craig Fulton’s boys went down to Belgium and GB 2-1 and 4-2, respectively, last week in what was the new head coach’s first assignment. Midfielder Hardik Singh said the team was focused on improving its showing as second-placed India looks to lose down the gap at the top of the standings.
“As a team, it went well but we have to finish well inside the circle. We are playing after a long time against teams who are coming on the back off playing European Hockey League. We last played in Feb-March. Our focus and attention will be on the next two matches,” said Hardik.
Skipper Harmanpreet Singh, who scored twice against Great Britain, said, “The two matches were different while coming up against completely different structures. One plays zonally while the other plays man-to-man. New coach. The coach noted that we have to improve step-by-step. Our target is to improve and win but structure-wise we are doing well and we are implementing the ideas on the pitch. We can improve more.”
With six matches left in the Pro League, Harmanpreet – India’s primary drag-flicker – stated that the team will ‘like to try every flicker and try out new variations.’
It was evident that the team’s preparations are geared towards the Asian Games, which will serve as the Paris Olympics qualifiers, in September and Hardik felt that the Pro League will act as the best possible preparation.
“The Europeans are among the world’s top seven teams. If we play well against them, then our confidence will be good. The Asian champions trophy [after Pro League] is also a good preparatory test for us.
“We have to be sharp against them and our execution must be perfect. So when we come to the Asian Games we don’t have difficulties. Our ultimate target is the Asian Games. The Asian teams play half-court a lot, but our execution must be the same as what we do against the European teams,” said the 24-year-old.
India will finish its Pro League campaign after it takes on the Netherlands and Argentina, and Harmanpreet, too, concurred with his teammate. “We will come up against teams [in Asian Games] which play man-to-man and half-court and here also teams play a similar structure which will help the forwards. Even against Argentina, they won’t let you enter D easily.”
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