Indian hockey team captain Manpreet Singh will be a disappointed man today. He could not see his side reach the Olympic final after 41 years as they were defeated 5-2 by Belgium in the semi-finals at the Tokyo Olympics.
The defeat means India will now contend for a third-place finish in the bronze medal match on Thursday against either Germany or Australia.
Check Out: Tokyo Olympics 2021 Schedule
What will be more upsetting for the talismanic midfielder is that it was during his absence from the field, due to a green card, that the team lost its way in the match. He had to see his team concede their third goal from the sideline. By the time Manpreet was back on the field after serving a 2-minute suspension, the game had slipped away from the Indian side.
The momentum switched in Belgium's favor and they scored another goal a few minutes later. With 8 minutes left in the match, India saw themselves two goals down and it was always going to be an uphill battle from that point on.
Indian coach Graham Reid also admitted that the green card to Manpreet was one of the turning points of the match.
Speaking to the media after the match, this is what the Indian captain had to say:
“See, the team was doing well. So, I don’t think so [the green card changed the game]. I’m also unsure why I got that card. But the team gave in their all despite my green card and pushed through till the end. So, credit to the boys for that.”
Reflecting on why his team lost the semifinal against Belgium, Manpreet said:
“We didn’t convert our chances. We got into the circle, we had penalty corners but we didn’t take our chances. We’ve always known that you take those opportunities against the big teams to have the upper hand. They did that [utilise their goalscoring chances] and were better than us in the 3rd and 4th quarters.”
It is now imperative to move the team's focus and attention to the next match. Being the Indian captain, Manpreet would love to lead his country to an Olympic medal in hockey after 41 years. He said:
“We still have the opportunity to win a medal. Something is better than nothing so why not fight for the bronze medal? So, we will have a meeting to get ready for the next match no matter who the opponent is.”
This is the Indian captain's third Olympic appearance, making him one of the most experienced players on the team. Like a true leader, Manpreet realizes the responsibility that falls on him.
At the end of the match, Manpreet was seen leading his players into a huddle and giving a speech. When asked what message was being given in that huddle, Manpreet said:
“We pray after every match [in the huddle]. It was the same routine today as well. We discussed shifting our focus to the next match. This one is gone, but we have control over what we do next.”
Manpreet Singh's message for his team
Manpreet said the role senior players like him play will be pivotal for India to bounce back from this defeat and head to the next match with a positive mindset. He said:
“All the senior players like me and Sreejesh will look to motivate the youngsters in the team. We still have a chance to get a medal and we will look to do our best.”
Manpreet has led his side valiantly throughout the tournament. The same side lost 7-1 to Australia in the Pool stage, their worst Olympic defeat ever. However, they fought valiantly to bounce back and win the next three games. So, Manpreet and his team have sailed through these waters before and will know what they have to do on Thursday.
Indian fans will hope that the team can shake off this defeat as they stand on the cusp of creating history. They would want their team to clinch a place on the podium and end a 41-year long wait for a hockey medal at the Olympics.
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