PR Sreejesh from Tokyo Games Village
"They will try their level best to keep the ball away from us and stop us from scoring. If we beat that tactic and score first, things will get easier." This was coach Graham Reid's advice to us ahead of the crucial match against Argentina.
Taking heed to what he said, we went on the attack right from the beginning and took a number of shots in the first two quarters. However, their defence stayed solid and managed to keep our strikers at bay. The fact that we were the dominant team for much of the first half definitely raised our confidence level.
In the 43rd minute, Varun Kumar gave the team a much-needed breakthrough after converting a very well worked penalty corner. Within five minutes, Argentina responded by scoring off a penalty corner and levelled the score. Although we needed only a draw to ensure our place in the quarterfinals, we believed that we could win this game and secure all three points. Beating the defending Olympic champions and making the last-eight stage in convincing fashion gave us the much-needed confidence. The fact that we conceded only a penalty corner in the match too augurs well for the team.
We will play hosts Japan in our final pool match on Friday. India are above Japan in the world rankings, but we cannot take them lightly. We have to perform at our best to beat them in their own backyard. Remember, they had played their heart out against the top-ranked Australians.
This was our third win in four matches. We have nine points and are placed second in the group. India have a five-point lead over third-placed Spain with just one game left to play in the group. We will finish group engagements in that position no matter what the result of our match against Japan. However, there is no room for complacency and we are definitely looking to win that match.
In the quarterfinals, we will be facing the third-placed team from Pool B. It will be either Germany or Great Britain, depending on how the match between Belgium and Great Britain later in the day finishes.
(The writer is a member of the Indian hockey team)