Their Olympic campaign off to a losing start,erstwhile champions India would be desperate to return to winning ways against an unpredictable New Zealand in their second Group B match of the men’s hockey competition here tomorrow.
Come tomorrow,the Indians will be under tremendous pressure to produce a good result against New Zealand toremain in contention for a place in the next round.
But it won’t be easy as in New Zealand the Indian will be facing a side against whom they lost 1-5 just months ago. And going into the match the humiliating defeat is bound to be fresh in the memory of the Indian players.
Returning to the Olympics after a gap of eight years,eight-time champions,India lost 2-3 to The Netherlands yesterday in their opening encounter of the London Games,which has left them shaky and confused.
Against the Dutch last night,the Indian players,all but two of them making their maiden Olympic appearance,seemed tentative and jittery.
But if they wish to bring smiles back on the faces of Indian hockey fans,Michael Nobbs’ boys have no other option but to get their acts together against the Black Sticks.
The Indians seemed to be content to defend in the entire first half against The Netherlands yesterday,and played their natural game only after the change of ends.
Expectedly,India’s chief coach Michael Nobbs was baffled to see the way his wards got overawed by their Dutch rivals and simply forgot their natural game.
“The boys had done a lot of hard work and it was quite baffling that they did not put all the practice into play in the first half against The Netherlands,” he said.
“They seemed to be starstruck or something yesterday. They obviously could not hear me yelling and screaming from the sidelines to go out and play their game,” Nobbs added.
He,however,is hopeful of turning things around against New Zealand tomorrow.
“Starting with zero point from the first match,we’ll need to try extra hard against New Zealand tomorrow.
“New Zealand are a tough physical side,but we have played against them and are capable of putting up a better performance,” said Nobbs,insisting that the Indian players “need to get over their nerves” to come up with an impressive show tomorrow.
The Australian said it was only after half-time that the Indians played their natural game.
Nobbs admitted that the Indians will have to work hard to secure full three points against New Zealand,a side which is far more experienced than his team.
“New Zealand have a lot of experience. A couple of their players have played as many international matches as our entire team,” he said.
“We must get over our tentative game we played at the start of the first outing against The Netherlands. We need to imbibe an aggressive attitude,” the coach insisted.
India’s vice-captain Sardar Singh acknowledged that the team needed improvement up-front.
“We need to improve our finishing. Our forward line was poor against The Netherlands,” said Sardar.
On the other hand,New Zealand,winners of the Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia two months ago,will be seeking to continue their recent supremacy over India,whom they outplayed when the two teams last played in Ipoh.
The Black Sticks are in a similar situation as India,having lost their opening match 0-2 to South Korea yesterday.
Among other teams in the group,defending champions Germany rallied after conceding an early lead to prevail 2-1 over Belgium.
New Zealand captain Dean Couzins also said that a loss in the opening match had made things difficult.
“It makes the rest of the tournament really difficult,but I think every game in this group is going to be tough,” Couzins said. “I think we will knock some teams off,so we’ve got to keep pushing ourselves and look towards India.