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Commonwealth Games 2018: Coach Sjoerd Marijne appreciates India's 'better conversion and fewer goals conceded' ahead of medal clashes

India captain Manpreet Singh with head coach Sjoerd Marijne
India captain Manpreet Singh with head coach Sjoerd Marijne
FEATURED COLUMNIST
Modified 01 Apr 2020
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There were some stutters and surprises in Pool B but in the end, the four top-ranked teams in the competition have made it to the semi-finals of the Commonwealth Games 2018 in Gold Coast. Australia, New Zealand, India and England have qualified for the last four.

While Australia and New Zealand asserted their dominance in Pool A, India and England did not have it quite so easy in Pool B. India had to ward off a strong challenge from Asian rivals Malaysia while England trailed Wales 0-2 at half-time before striking thrice in the second half.

Pakistan have been the surprise package and have raised a few eyebrows by holding both India and England and may be on a path to ascendancy in the hockey world.

India survived some anxious moments before assuring themselves of a shot at a medal in Gold Coast and will look to hit peak form ahead of the big semi-final on Friday.

"We will get better with every match" coach Sjoerd Marijne had stated ahead of the encounter with Malaysia, and India did display a performance far superior to their previous outings.

Two players have stood out for India in the tournament thus far and have been largely responsible for India's semi-final entry.

A livewire who never tires

With steely determination, he sprints forward like a greyhound, his eyes darting as he probes for space, dodges, shimmies, and delivers pin-point assists to his fellow strikers positioned aptly at the goalmouth.

When no support is available, he takes it upon himself to manufacture some near-impossible maneuvers to get as close to the net as possible and does not hesitate to take a shot at goal.

When SV Sunil gets the ball, things seem to start happening all of a sudden. He displays a certain energy which is infectious and inspiring and gets the rest of the team moving along with him.

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He has been the livewire for India in all three matches that they have played so far, and it is fair to say that he has delivered when the rest of India's forward line has yet to come into their own.

His assists have been consistently accurate and lethal and should ideally have resulted in more goals. He is known for his speed, but what has stood out in Gold Coast, is the sense of urgency which he has displayed.

While Sunil's exploits have got India home thus far, the opposing teams, by now, are well aware of the danger he poses and will no doubt have their plans laid out to counter him. It is time now for the rest of the Indian forward line to bring to the fore their amazing skills which they have yet to display at the Commonwealth Games.

Lethal in opposition circle, calm and composed in own circle

Harmanpreet Singh rarely smiles after scoring. While his fellow teammates leap into the air with jubilation, he trudges away looking as fearsome as ever with fists clutched. One has to be a goalkeeper, perhaps, to experience what it feels like to be staring straight down at the stocky drag-flicker, waiting for the ball to come screaming like a bullet with only a second to react.

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He scored twice against Malaysia and that effectively ensured that India did not have to wait to play England to book their semifinal berth.

The drag-flicker also looks calm, composed, and supremely confident in his own circle, so much so that when he isn't on the pitch, the Indian defence seems slightly deficient. His ability to engage in clean and effective tackles in dangerous situations near the goalmouth makes him a valuable asset.

India are slowly coming into their own and, hopefully, will be at their very best as they prepare to play the medal matches. "Now, we have a better conversion from chances and get scored less against. We are still not playing to our potential, but we won and that is important."

Sjoerd Marijne knows for sure what he is talking about and will look to inject energy and confidence in his boys in their quest for gold.

Published 10 Apr 2018, 20:33 IST
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