Having secured its place in the final, a confident Indian men’s hockey team would look to continue the winning streak against less-fancied Japan in its last pool match at the second-leg of the Four-Nation Invitational Tournament.
India are unbeaten in the tournament so far with 3-2 and 5-4 win over hosts New Zealand and higher-ranked Belgium.
Having drubbed Japan 6-0 in the first leg at Tauranga, India will start as overwhelming favourites against their Asian counterparts at the Gallagher Hockey Stadium tomorrow.
While the team would look to clinch a third straight win after beating hosts New Zealand 3-2 in the first match, followed by a stunning win against Belgium, chief coach Sjoerd Marijne wants his players to work on their shortcomings.
“We would like to improve our ball possession and we can train on this aspect against Japan. Our 75 yard press needs to improve as well and that is also something we want to work on when we play against Japan,” said the 43-year-old Dutchman.
In their emphatic victory against the World No. 3 Belgium yesterday, India led twice — 1-0, 4-3 — before Belgium fought back to surge ahead twice — 2-1, 3-2.
But the Indians pulled up their socks just at the right time to finish on a high.
The result against Belgium is a complete reversal for a team that is used to concede last-minute goals.
“The game plan was the same against Belgium but this time we were more effective. We wanted to press hard. We didn’t allow too much space and we wanted to improve our scoring, and finish well and we were successful,” Marijne said.
India rested skipper Manpreet Singh in the match against Belgium and Marijne said it was a calculated risk that the team took to give other young midfielders a chanc to showcase their talents.
“We are here to develop players and if Manpreet wasn’t playing then other players can show what they’ve got. If you have taken players with you, you need to allow them to play big matches and only then can you see if they are good enough,” the coach said.
India are currently leading the pool table with six points followed by hosts New Zealand and Belgium who are placed second and third respectively.
But the Indians will have to wait till the result of New Zealand vs Belgium match on Saturday to know their final opponents.
Marijne though wants to play Belgium again in the summit clash which will give his players another chance to test their skills against the world no.3 side.
“I hope we play Belgium again but it will certainly be a tough match because Belgium is one side which is not used to losing twice. This means we need to bring our A game and show consistency,” he concluded.