India men's hockey at Rio: 5 things we have learned so far
For the first time in many years, the Indian Hockey team entered the Olympics with an air of expectation surrounding them. The recent success in the World Hockey League and a silver medal at the Champions Trophy led to many expecting them to break their voodoo of the Olympic games after a stretch of 36 years.
The results were quickly followed by a facelift in the FIH rankings as the Blueshirts entered the tournament ranked 5th, and deservedly so. And going by the first three games, they have certainly lived up to their billing.
After the first three games, India sit pretty in third position in Pool B after eeking out victories against Ireland and Argentina while being denied a deserved point against Germany in the dying seconds. It would, in fact, only take a miracle to deny India a chance to advance into the final eight.
Here are five things we have learned from India's play in the first three games:
One of the things that have really hindered India in their previous Olympics was their execution on the pitch. Whilst possessing some really technically strong individuals, they seemed to fall apart on the field when it came to executing.
A perfect example would be VR Raghunath. The Kannadiga was a shambles during the London Olympics, coming under a lot of flack for a number of costly mistakes. In years to come, he has become a real cornerstone at the back and it showed again in this game. The defence, barring the fourth quarter of this game has held a strong fort especially in the last two games with Surinder Singh, Harmanpreet Singh, Kothajit Singh and Rupinder Pal Singh chipping in whenever required.
In fact, barring the final quarter of the game against Argentina, the defence had given away only a single penalty corner in the last two games.
The midfield, especially Manpreet Singh, has caught the eye for rotating the ball swiftly and allowing the likes SV Sunil, Nikkin Thimmaiah, Ramandeep Singh and Akashdeep Singh to go on the counter as soon as possible. With the ball moving back to front in a blink of an eye, Roelant Oltmans’ tactic of middle pressing has looked even more impressive.