The last time the Indian men’s hockey team played an international match, they came out on the wrong end of a 3-5 loss, at home, to Spain. At the Kalinga Stadium on February 27, a day after a 5-4 win against the Spaniards, errors marred the performance as the hosts stumbled to their second defeat in the six games they’ve played so far in the 2021-22 FIH Hockey Pro League.
Now against the Argentinians, at the same venue in Bhubaneswar, the Indians hope to get their campaign back to winning ways.
“We have analysed the errors that we made in the previous game against Spain, and we have trained and planned accordingly. We have had discussions within our leadership group about the areas we need to improve upon. We have worked on those areas and we are confident we will put up a good showing,” said Amit Rohidas, who has been appointed as team captain for the two matches against Argentina, said during a pre-match press conference. Mandeep Singh has been appointed as the team’s vice-captain for the tie.
Rohidas and Mandeep Singh have been given the additional responsibility in order to broaden the team’s leadership ahead of important tournaments this year.
Of late, the Indians have had a decent run against the South American opposition, with wins coming in each of the last three meetings – a win in the shootout after 2-2 regulation-time scoreline and a 3-0 triumph on back-to-back days in April 2021 during the FIH Pro League, followed by a 3-1 win for the Indians in a group match at the Tokyo Olympics.
It’s the experience of playing Argentina, Rohidas asserted, that will help the Indians when they play at the Kalinga Stadium on March 19 and 20.
“We have seen videos of our matches against Argentina and we have planned accordingly. They have been in good form this season. So, we have been in constant discussion on what strategies we have to create to stop their attacking set-ups. Our focus and our practice sessions have been designed keeping the same in mind. We hope to stick to our plans and be successful in implementing the same,” he said.
World No 6 Argentina have been in good form in the FIH Pro League 2021/22, with one win over Belgium and two wins against England.
They’re currently in sixth place after four matches, with their only loss coming in the 2-0 defeat to Belgium. They do, however, have two games in hand compared to the Indians.
India, currently placed second in the group behind the Netherlands, have won four of their six matches this campaign.
In the sojourn to South Africa, India beat the hosts twice – with identical 10-2 scores. They also beat France 5-0 but later lost to the European team 5-2. Later they came up with the mixed results against the Spanish.
Argentina though may prove to be a different type of opponent than the ones India had faced during and before Tokyo 2020.
“We have a lot of new young blood in our team, and we are focusing on the present,” said Argentina’s head coach Mariano Ronconi.
“We have watched all the previous FIH Hockey Pro League matches of India. They are very strong on the ball and can really trouble the defense. But we have prepared our strategies accordingly and we feel we are ready to challenge what they have to offer us.”
Krishan Bahadur Pathak
Vivek Sagar Prasad
Moirangthem Rabichandra Singh
Lalit Kumar Upadhyay
Nilam Sanjeep Xess
Ashis Kumar Topno
India will play Argentina on 19th and 20th March at 19.30 hrs (IST) at the Kalinga Hockey Stadium. The Match on 19th March will be live on Star Sports First and Disney + Hotstar while the match on 20th March will be available only on Disney + Hotstar.