Marijne and Manpreet savour Asia Cup victory

Sjoerd Marijne took charge only a month ago and it was Manpreet Singh’s first tournament as the designated captain of the side.

Indian hockey players celebrate with the trophy after winning the Hero Asia Cup 2017 at the Maulana Bhashani National Hockey Stadium in Dhaka, Bangladesh on Sunday.   -  PTI

India hockey coach Sjoerd Marijne and captain Manpreet Singh were much in demand after winning the Asia Cup on Sunday. India remained unbeaten in the competition, its only draw coming against a tricky South Korea. The last time India won the title was in 2007, in Chennai, and had remained unbeaten back then as well. Coach Marijne, in his first outing with the side, was satisfied.

“It feels great and I am really happy with the result. The expectations with the India men's hockey team are always high but we concentrated on our game,” Marijne told Sportstar from Dhaka after the game.

There is a reason hockey is a team game. Every time there was pressure, the players stood up as a unit to be counted. That is why we had so many field goals from different players. And Harmanpreet (Singh) and Varun (Kumar) too came good whenever they got chances. I had complete support from everyone, everyone contributed and it showed.

— Manpreet Singh, India captain

 

The win was equally sweet for Manpreet, who won his first title as designated captain of the side. With his maturity and calmness under pressure in a side that had several youngsters, it needs to be remembered that Manpreet himself is just 25 years old.

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“There is a reason hockey is a team game. Every time there was pressure, the players stood up as a unit to be counted. That is why we had so many field goals from different players. And Harmanpreet (Singh) and Varun (Kumar) too came good whenever they got chances. I had complete support from everyone, everyone contributed and it showed,” a breathless Manpreet said even as he was being pestered for interviews.

India's Asia Cup 2017 results:

Pool Stage:

India 5-1 Japan

India 7-0 Bangladesh

India  3-1 Pakistan

Super 4s

India 1-1 South Korea

India 6-2 Malaysia

India  4-0 Pakistan

Final:

India 2-1 Malaysia

 

Marijne, who took charge only a month ago, admitted it was not easy to be relaxed, specially after Malaysia pulled one back in the last 10 minutes. “I wouldn't say I was nervous because with the scoreline 2-1 in the last 5-6 minutes anything can happen. It was nervous excitement,” he laughed.

The bigger challenge, however, would come in December when it plays the Hockey World League Finals at home. The field would be vastly different then and both Manpreet and Marijne are aware of it. “As the highest ranked side in the tournament, we were expected to win here and so this result is in keeping with our position in Asia. That it came without some senior players is a good thing because the internal competition we have now in the side is always good,” the coach said and was seconded by the captain.

“We know the HWL would be different and we are prepared for it. This win is great but now we will get back and then regroup after a short break and get going for the next tournament. We hope to keep the momentum going and keep improving from here on, specially since the next one year will be a tough one,” Manpreet signed off.

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