GOLD COAST, April 12: Invincible so far, a determined Indian men’s hockey team will continue its quest for the elusive gold medal when they take on New Zealand in the semifinal at the 21st Commonwealth Games here tomorrow.
The Manpreet Singh-led side was held for a draw by arch-rivals Pakistan in their opening Pool B match last week, while they notched up 4-3 win over Wales and a 2-1 victory against Malaysia in the following matches, before outwitting England 4-3 yesterday.
It was a thrilling match 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,” said Mapreet, 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 2-3 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.
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 two-time silver medallists want 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.
India will also be riding on their successful outing in their recent New Zealand Tour in January this year where they beat the home team twice in the two-leg Four Nations Tournament. – PTI