Rio Olympics 2016: Key clashes and areas to brush up for the Indian men's hockey team ahead of German test
Firstly, let us rewind and chalk out the positives and areas of improvements from the last game against Ireland where we started off superbly only to make it a tense, edge of the seat thriller!
Acing the drag-flicks
India's penalty corner conversion has been superb in the last match with almost half of them i.e. 3 goals being put into the back of the net. This high conversion rate reassures India’s faith in its very potent weapon! Moreover, we had two different scorers against the Irish side which is heartening to see. It also bodes well to have both our drag-flickers in form as the tournament progresses. Young defender Harmanpreet should also be applauded for putting up a spirited performance on the field in his Olympic debut.
However, the Indian attack needs to fire and score field goals and not be over dependent on penalty corners alone. They still look suspect as is their history, towards the closing stages of the game. An area that needs to be immediately addressed so that the germans don’t exploit. On the whole, the team needs to fine tune their finishing skills in front of goal.
Defensive stability to attack!
The defence needs to withstand the German blitzkrieg. India’s defenders were caught napping when Ireland looked to play long overhead balls and get deep into the Indian half. The Germans would come at them hard as was the case in the 4-0 rout in the pre-Olympics, six-nation invitational tournament friendly matches held in Valencia after the come from behind 3-3 draw in the Champions Trophy.
India had lots of defensive lapses in the last match against the “Green Army”. The defence was exposed to a lot of penalty corners from the opposition and Surender Kumar and Rupinder Pal should pull up their socks and approach their defensive duties with more responsibility. This will not only help to free India of any pressure but also up the ante in all attacks going forward.
Key head to head clashes for the game
Christopher Rühr vs VR Raghunath
Christopher Rühr, the FIH young player of the year in 2015 will come all guns blazing at the Indian defence. This promising young talent would love to shine in this tournament. He and the rest of the forward line would capitalise on any defensive lapses. Chris would relish every moment to dribble from the flanks to tear apart the Indian defensive line.
VR Raghunath should take the onus upon himself to mark Christoph. He along with fellow defenders need to block all movements from the left channel. This defensive stability is one area of improvement that the Indians would be targeting with high priority!
Nicolas Jacobi vs Akashdeep Singh
The old Akashdeep has to come to party, because only some skillful stickwork can beat the onrushing top class goalie in the form of Nicolas Jacobi. He needs to work with Raman and Sunil in small triangles. It is only a combination play like theirs that can outfox the German defence.
Florian Fuchs vs Manpreet Singh
Manpreet has to shoulder much responsibility at the centre of the field. This will free Sardara from the central defensive role and give more license to dictate terms in the match. He along with Devinder need to be on their toes in today’s match.
Sardara would be man marked and surrounded by two players as and when he gets a ball. It is here where both need to support him to work their way out and build some attacks. Complementing each other’s style of play, all three midfielders will hold the key to boss around in the middle of the park.
Moritz Fürste vs PR Sreejesh
Given the wealth of experience at his disposal, Fürste would be threatening during the set pieces, especially when it comes to penalty corners. Hence, Sreejesh needs to be on the top of his game. He, off late has lost his ability to stay composed as well as big and tall when an onrushing forward approaches India’s goal.
Sreejesh has conceded soft goals most notably in between his legs. The Germans would have definitely studied his movements and saves through videos and would come up with alternate plans to bewilder him.
Prediction: Most likely a 2-2 or 3-3 goal scoring draw with perhaps, Germany edging it in the dying minutes with a score of 3-2.