Rio de Janeiro (9 August, 2016): India slipped back into the race for a quarterfinals berth with a 2-1 win over Argentina in the men’s Group B hockey match in the 2016 Rio Olympics at the Olympic Hockey Centre in Deodoro Park on Tuesday.
The Indians, who had just barely 24 hours earlier allowed defending champions Germany to snatch a late goal with 3.1 seconds remaining on the clock that left Roelant Oltmans boys in a shocking 2-1 defeat, had put those difficult memories behind when they took on the Argentineans.
Clearly dominating the first three quarters, India grabbed the lead through Chinglensana Singh (8th minute) before fellow Manipuri player Kothajit Singh doubled the scoreline with a field goal in the 35th minute.
But the final lap of the match turned out to be a tense moment for both Argentina and India. Drag-flicker Gonzalo Peillat pulled one back for Argentina in the 49th minute by converting their first penalty corner with a lethal strike that beat goalkeeper PR Sreejesh. The Argentineans than prodded on in search for the equaliser in vain and had several close chances.
While Sreejesh could not hide his emotions after the match against Germany for letting his guard down, the veteran goalkeeper, however, kept his composure this time around and was fully focussed, pulling off five saves to deny Peillat and Argentina of making any comeback.
India moved up to third position in Group B table standings after Tuesday’s matches on six points with Germany taking top spot on nine points, Netherlands second (7) followed by Argentina fourth position (4) while Ireland and Canada are without points.
Eight-time Olympic champions India will return to the Olympic Hockey Centre in Deodoro Park on Thursday after a one-day respite for the showdown against Netherlands.
The Germans, eyeing a third consecutive men’s hockey gold medal following triumphs in 2008 (Beijing) and London (2012), edged Ireland 3-2 while the Netherlands punched a big blow to the Canadians confidence in Rio by carving a 7-0 winning score.
Belgium and Spain continued their winning ways by taking the top two spots in Group A table standings with nine points. The Belgians defeated world champions Australia 1-0 thanks to a Tanguy Cosyns 15th minute goal while Spain triumphed 3-2 over New Zealand.
The Kookaburras now sit precariously in fourth position with just one victory from three matches and needing to win the remaining two games against Great Britain on Thursday and lowly Brazil after that.
For the first time since 1988 Olympics, Australia’s men’s hockey team has lost consecutive matches. For the first time in the 15 years captain Mark Knowles has played for Australia he cannot recall the Kookaburras failing to score in consecutive matches.
“We are not at the level we need to be at to play at the Olympics at the moment but we also need calm head. If there was no quarter-finals we would be on a plane home tonight but there are quarter-finals and we have more chances and we know that we can do it, that’s the good thing,” Knowles said.
“We are letting ourselves down in crucial moments we know we have to be much better than that. We get another chance tomorrow night against GB but you don’t want to leave your run too late. We know we are skating on thin ice at the moment we need to get better and we know we can.”
Knowles and head coach Graham Reid agreed they needed to fix their attack and review their methods with penalty corners.
“We need to look at how to press the opposition and get the ball back a bit quicker. One of our biggest problems in that match was we got the ball back and gave it straight back to them. They are coach killers,” Knowles said.
“You are in the Olympics you have to do it every single day and that is what I am disappointed about, that is what the coaches are disappointed about. We are looking for answers, I have played 15 years in the national team and never had two times in a row we have not scored a goal. That is unheard of for the Kookaburras.”
In other Group A matches, Great Britain pounded hosts Brazil 9-1 to go third in the tables’ standings behind Belgium and Spain. It was the Brazilian’s second highest defeat in the tournament after suffering a 12-0 mauling by Belgium earlier.
The women’s event will return on Wednesday with World No 6 China lined up to face Netherlands and Korea faces Germany in Group A ties. India and Japan go into Group B action against Australia and United States respectively.
The Chinese are sitting comfortable second in the table standings on four points behind Netherlands and a win over the Dutch will catapult China to the top and remain in strong position to qualify for the quarterfinals.
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