Hockey World League: Manpreet can be our surprise drag-flicker - Jagbir Singh
"His confidence showed when he walked up to the top of the D," said the former India Olympian about Manpreet's surprise goal against France.
India just about managed to avoid a French embarrassment on Saturday, pulling off a 3-2 win in the dying minutes of their opener in the FIH Hockey World League semi-finals in Antwerp. But what grabbed the most eyeballs was Manpreet Singh stepping up in the drag-flicker's position and score.
India, who are carrying just one penalty-corner specialist to Belgium, chose not to avail the services of Rupinder Pal Singh, which meant Manpreet not just played in the backline but also did what Rupinder does often, i.e., score off penalty corners (PC).
"His confidence showed when he walked up to the top of the D," said former India strike and Olympian Jagbir Singh. "He has the potential [to be a PC specialist]."
Manpreet, who normally plays in the midfield, has scored previously off penalty corners, but it was the first time he drag-flicked and managed to pull it off. It was also an important goal after India had conceded a 1-0 lead to France in just the third minute of the match.
"He knows what his duty is, whether he wants to go for a variation or drag-flick. He and Jasjit [Singh Kular] have been practising to shoot on PCs, and I think Manpreet did splendidly well. It was an accurate, powerful strike," Jagbir said.
Manpreet, it seems, surprised himself too with the effort as his tweet suggested.
"Wat a great moment for me yesterday, scored my 1st ever drag flick goal - gonna remember every bit of it & hope to score more 4 d nation!" he tweeted after India's win.
It was, however, surprising to see India not using the services of Rupinder for the entire 60 minutes of the match. "Not sure, but I think he is injured. Paul [van Ass] is a very calculative coach. He would not want to take any chances. We have to wait for another match [against Poland on Tuesday] to see what is Rupinder's status."
India's narrow win also saw Devindar Walmiki making a goal-scoring debut as he drew India level at 2-2 before Ramandeep Singh's winner two minutes from full-time. And Jagbir was full of praise for the youngster.
"He is a never-say-die player, runs off the ball, that's his biggest advantage. In modern hockey, such players are very effective, who can run 30-40 yards to create space to receive the ball. Such players stand out on the field," the former striker said.
Jagbir concluded by saying that it's important India ended up getting full points against France despite playing "well only in patches".
"Quite happy and gland we started with three points. We are usually shaky and don't begin [a tournament] well. And we played well only in patches, so getting the win and full points is pretty satisfying in the end."
India's second match in Pool A will be against Poland at 1930 IST on Tuesday.
Wat a great moment for me yesterday, scored my 1st ever drag flick goal - gonna remember every bit of it & hope to score more 4 d nation!
— Manpreet Singh (@manpreetpawar07) June 21, 2015
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