Having begun their FIH Hockey Pro League 2021-22 campaign with back-to-back victories, the Manpreet Singh-led Indian Men’s Hockey Team will vie to end their South African sojourn on a winning note when they take on France and South Africa over the weekend.
In the opening match, India beat France 5-0 where Harmanpreet Singh (21′), Varun Kumar (24′), Shamsher Singh (28′), Mandeep Singh (32′) and Akashdeep Singh (41′) who was playing his 200th international match, scored goals. “It was good to start off the campaign with a win. Our first quarter was patchy but after the first quarter we played a rather composed game. We played to our structure and converted from the chances we created,” stated Manpreet talking about their first match against France, who are building their team towards the Paris Olympic Games in 2024.
Manpreet believes France is an unpredictable team and on a good day they can pull off a surprise any team. “It’s important we don’t take them lightly when we play against them on Saturday. We saw what France is capable of when they played against Netherlands. The match went into a shootout after 2-2 draw and eventually they lost in the shootout. Even when we played against them, they created good chances to score,” expressed the Captain.
In India’s second match where they won 10-2, new comer Jugraj Singh (4′, 6′, 23′) scored a hat-trick of goals and Harmanpreet Singh (2′), Abhishek (12′), Gursahibjit Singh (24′, 36′), Dilpreet Singh (25′, 58′), Mandeep Singh (27′) scoring in India’s win. Though it was a big-margin victory for India, Manpreet expressed that there were several aspects the team could have done better particularly in the second half. “Definitely the highlight of this match was both new comers in the team Jugraj and Abhishek scoring goals and also creating opportunities. But when we watched the videos from this match, we definitely felt that as a team, we could have done better in the second half. There were lapses in the defence, which allowed South Africa to come back into the game and we didn’t carry on the same tempo with which we started the match,” Manpreet opined.
“We will need to play consistently in all four quarters and that will focus on doing that in the upcoming two matches against France and South Africa. It will obviously be good if we can end the tour with winning points,” he concluded.
India is currently placed third in the pool standings behind Netherlands and Belgium respectively who have played four matches.
On 12 February, India will take on France at 9:30 PM IST and on February 13, they will play hosts South Africa at 9:30 PM IST.
Matches will be live on Star Sports Select 2 and Star Sports Select 2 HD. Matches will also be shown live on Hotstar.