Indian males’s hockey staff return to professional motion

Buenos Aires, April 9

The Indian men’s hockey team will return to top-level international competition after more than a year when it takes on Olympics champions Argentina in the first match of the two-game FIH Pro League tie here on Saturday.

India played their last FIH Pro League match against Australia in February last year in Bhubaneswar.

India are currently fifth in the FIH Pro League standings with 10 points from six games, with two wins, two losses and two draws. World champions Belgium are atop the standings with 32 points from 13 games, followed by Germany (19 points from 8 matches), Netherlands (18 from 11) and Australia (14 from 8). Argentina are sixth with 10 points from 10 games.

India resumed international hockey in February this year when they embarked on a tour of Europe, where they played out two draws and registered two victories in their four games against Germany and Great Britain.

They also had a good build-up to the tie, having defeated Argentina 4-3 before drawing 4-4 in the two practice games.

“Both practice matches were good. They were hard-fought games and quite intense,” India skipper Manpreet Singh said.

“In both the games, we showed a lot of fight and created loads of chances. But we could have scored even more whilst conceding fewer goals. We are working hard to be more compact at the back and being more ruthless going forward,” the 28-year-old added.

Manpreet stressed on the importance of the matches as the team prepares for the Olympics. “We worked hard in our training camps and tried our best to recreate the intensity of a high-stake international match. That is why the upcoming matches are so important to us,” he said. “Having missed match practice for much of last year, we have to cash in on the opportunities we get. It is good for us that we are tested against a tough opponent like Argentina.”

Having suffered twin defeats against Germany last week, Argentina would be under some pressure, but Manpreet refused to underestimate the hosts. “Argentina are a quality side and we have had some good matches against them over the years. We need to focus on our game. Like I said, each match we play is a learning experience,” he said. — PTI

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