Their Quest for Gold didn’t take off as planned when the Indian Men’s Hockey Team drew 2-2 against arch-rivals Pakistan in their opening Pool B match last week. Despite a 4-3 win against Wales and 2-1 win against Malaysia in the following matches, the team didn’t look dangerous enough to be considered as Gold Medal contenders. However, they managed to turn tables in their encounter against England, where 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,” exclaimed Manpreet Singh, who put up his aggressive front against England, scoring the first goal for India in the 33rd minute and played a linchpin in the Indian midfield.
Despite a poor start against England and trailing twice (0-1 in the 17th minute and 3-2 in the 56th minute) in the match Manpreet’s team found the ambition to turn around the result in India’s favour in the fourth quarter which witnessed five goals being scored between the two teams. It was their ‘winning mentality’ that saw the team through. Manpreet said, “The punishments after losing a match back in the training camp in Bengaluru were planned by the coaching staff to instil that winning attitude. 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.”
It is this winning attitude that the team wants to carry into their Semi Final match against New Zealand, who had a good outing in Pool A with big wins against Canada (6-2), South Africa (6-0), Scotland (5-2) and a narrow 1-2 loss against Australia. “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,” asserted the 25-year-old midfielder.