A slender one-goal margin in a highly competitive international match could be termed as an extremely disadvantageous and precarious situation. Yet riding on good fitness, the young Indian team staved off a spirited Japanese challenge to firmly hold on to slender a 1-0 lead and win bronze in the Asia Cup hockey tournament in Indonesia on Wednesday.
India’s development team skipper, Birendra Lakra, was elated by the national team's bronze medal-winning performance on Wednesday. In a post-match interaction, Lakra said:
“We lost to Japan 2-5 in the early stages of the Asia Cup hockey competition. The team, however, have improved with each match played in the tournament.”
India began their campaign for a bronze medal on a steady note, racing to a 1-0 lead in the first quarter through Rajkumar Pal in the sixth minute.
India’s coach Sardar Singh said during the pre-match interaction that India would have to play well. He said:
“To win the playoff match for the bronze medal, the team will have to play good hockey.”
India dished out a good brand of hockey to clinch the bronze medal
Indeed, the Indian team dished out a good brand of hockey in a highly competitive match despite being down to 10-men in the final four minutes of the competition. That Lakra’s team managed to hold off the spirited Japanese team was due to good fitness and tenacity.
Solid defense against the Japanese in the last quarter was indicative of India’s physical fitness as well as mental strength.
Japan squandered as many as seven penalty corners. A poor finish inside the circle further dented the Japanese's hopes of making a comeback in the match.
India did face some anxious moments in the final four-minute when the team went down to 10-men. The one-goal lead wasn’t best situation as the Japanese earned as many as two penalty corners in the last quarter, but both went abegging.
“To win the bronze medal match, each player has to give his 100 percent on the field,” Sardar Singh said.
Indeed, the players did not disappoint the coach and won the bronze.