Jul 25, 2021

Tokyo 2020 Olympics: India vs New Zealand talking points

It is never easy, watching Indian hockey team play. Especially, in the last few minutes when the team
Sreejesh bossed India's defense yesterday

usually concedes and throws it all away. Yesterday, was a different day under the guidance of a player who has numerous times have helped India come out of the top- PR Sreejesh. Defense led by PR Sreejesh, nearly played out of their skins to deliver India first win of the game. 

Throughout the game, India’s defense was on their toes denying New Zealand and work on creating goal scoring opportunities for Indian attack line. With midfield put out of equation, the defenders, pumped up long troubling balls to New Zealand striking circle. Rupinder Pal and Harmanpreet combined well to three of the five penalty corners to put India in the commanding position. And, survived last minute New Zealand onslaught. All, in 60 minutes of play. 
While defenders scored full marks yesterday against New Zealand, the rest of the team well has lot to improve upon. 

Here are three talking points from India vs New Zealand’s opening game at Tokyo Olympics 

Experience Matters 

At a major event like Olympics, experience matters a lot. It was once again proved yesterday by the performance of both the teams. For New Zealand, the team used all their experience to attack Indian goal the final minutes to search for an equalizer while Indian defense, the most experienced part of the side made used of all their huge experience to deny New Zealand from scoring. Sreejesh, Surender Kumar and Amit Rohidas were rock solid on the field and despite gigantic pressure kept their cool and helped India to safety. On the other hand, lack of experience in midfield and forward line was clearly visible. 

Huge confidence booster for Rupinder Pal 

Rupinder Pal Singh, hasn’t had a good last couple of years. In and out of the team due to his form and playing a secondary role to Harmanpreet Singh has surely dent his confidence. Emergence of Varun Kumar and Amit Rohidas too have threatened his place in the Indian team. However, yesterday’s game against New Zealand would have surely boosted his confidence and could have sparked his revival. His first penalty corner was just an inch shot from perfect as it hit the cross bar but his goal from penalty was shot in the arm. He continued to grow as the game progressed and was instrumental in helping India defend 3-2 lead. 

Midfield needs to be more assertive 

Manpreet Singh is a star, and he continues to give star like performance in every game, but he alone cannot carry the burden of the team. Hardik, Nilakantha, Vivek Sagar and Sumit also must step up and support him in the games. The game against New Zealand just highlighted the same point. While Manpreet was closely marked by the New Zealand team, there was no support from the rest of the midfield. There was a time in the first half when the midfield was completely blocked from receiving the ball and the defenders had to rely on to pushing long balls to help India attack. There is no doubt that Manpreet is going to be closely marked for all the upcoming games, but the entire midfield just cannot go missing. Hardik and Vivek being the most talented must take responsibility of running the show. 

With less than 10 hours to go for India’s second game against Australia, it would be interesting to see how India cope up and prepares for the game. 

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