Argentina has made huge strides in the world of hockey ever since its gold medal win at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Drag-flicker Gonzalo Peillat deserves much credit for his 11 goals in the tournament, including one in the final against Belgium, which made him the first Argentinian to win the FIH World Rising Star award that year. The 26-year-old has been in fine touch lately, finishing top scorer at the 2018 Champions Trophy with six goals. As Argentina looks to improve on its third-place finish at the 2014 World Cup, Peillat spoke about his team’s ambitions, his role as a penalty-corner specialist and the pressure it brings.

It’s your third visit to Bhubaneswar and it was great the last time. How prepared are you and the team for the World Cup this time around?

I think we have prepared a very good team. We started with a training camp in Argentina, then we played the Champions Trophy and the Four Nations tournament in Australia. We are now in Bhubaneswar and everything is pretty good. Now is the moment and we are ready for the tournament to begin.

As a senior pro in the national side at the age of 26, how much credit would you take for Argentina’s rapid rise in the last few years?

The more you can play with the team, the more experience you gain. We have been together as a team for almost six years now and we know each other’s game well, which is a positive thing. With us (experienced players) in the team, it will also help the development of our young players.

You have been the team’s go-to man under pressure and have almost always delivered, whether in the Hockey World League Final last year or the Olympics. How do you handle the pressure?

I think it’s a nice to have pressure. Pressure always brings out a positive response from us. It is something which pushes us to win and handling it comes with experience. We have never been afraid to play under pressure.

What responsibility do you see for yourself in Argentina’s campaign at the World Cup?

Of course, try to win every match we play and score the penalty corners every time.

How would you rate the Argentina squad for the World Cup?

Maybe because of the recent results, a few people might say that Argentina are the favourites. But our mentality is to focus on the group stage matches. As we go forward, we will try to prepare and arrive in the best way possible for the matches in the crossover.