CWG 2018

CWG 2018 Hockey semi-final preview: Manpreet and Co face Black Caps challenge in quest for gold

After a nerve-wracking last-minute win against England, India are up against New Zealand to ensure a medal at Gold Coast.

2-2 against Pakistan. 4-3 against Wales. 2-1 against Malaysia. 4-3 against England. Into the semi-finals, unbeaten.

Beaten, almost.

With less than 10 minutes left, they let England equalise (2-2) in the last game. Four minutes later, they conceded the lead.

Not that losing the match would’ve ended their dreams of winning gold. But a loss or a draw would’ve made them face the unflappable Australians in the semis.

Only four more minutes left. 2-3. It was all over in this match, surely?

Yeah, Australia can wait till the finals (if they make it). For, what followed in the next four minutes could be made into a Bollywood blockbuster. Or, a similar situation is already there in Chak de India.

But that’s fiction, this was fact.

India scored two successive goals in the final 1.36 minutes through Varun Kumar’s 3-3 equalizer and Mandeep Singh’s 4-3 winner in the 60th minute which was brilliantly set up by skipper Manpreet Singh.

“It was a match we had to win because we wanted to find the rhythm we usually play with and tick off the areas that had bothered us earlier. The first three matches were certainly not our best. We didn’t muster a 9/10 performance as the coach demands,” said Manpreet, who scored India’s first goal the 33rd minute.

The pre-tournament practice, or rather the “punishments after losing a match back in the training camp”, paid off, he said.

“We have had problems of conceding late goals but this time we did not want to settle for a loss or draw until the final second of the match. Though I still feel it wasn’t our best performance, we didn’t give up till the end.”

The penalty corner conversion, an aspect that Sjoerd Marijne’s men has been trying to get better at, was good against England. They converted two out of the three penalty corners, and that too, when it mattered the most.

Their PC conversion so far in the tournament:-

First match vs Pakistan: 1/4

Second match vs Wales: 3/13

Third match vs Malaysia: 2/9

Fourth match vs England: 2/3

Manpreet: ‘We want to fight till the last whistle’

The Indians are confident, but they wouldn’t want to take New Zealand lightly. For the Black Caps have been having a good run in the tournament as well. Their only loss (1-2 to Australia) was by a narrow margin. But their wins are big (6-2 against Canada, 6-0 against South Africa and 5-2 against Scotland).

“Against New Zealand too, we don’t want to focus too much on what they bring to the table, but we want to focus on our own strengths and ensure we fight till the last whistle,” said Manpreet.

Manpreet and his men will remember that they beat New Zealand twice in the two-leg Four Nations tournament this January.

“Yes, we have played them recently and are aware of their game as much as they are aware of ours. But that was a different event, and this is a different event and I am sure they will also come into the match with a winning mindset.”

“We just want to stick to our game and ensure there are no unforced errors,” Manpreet said.

One more win and India will be one step away from what they came to win in Gold Coast.

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