Sultan Azlan Shah Cup 2018: "Close games against top sides bodes well for Indian hockey's future," says Sjoerd Marijne
India's run in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup came to a rather disappointing end as the team finished fifth out of the six teams that took part in the prestigious tournament, that is played annually at the Sultan Azlan Shah Stadium in Ipoh, Malaysia.
India are traditionally one of the favourites at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, having won the tournament four times so far. The only team to have won it on more occasions is Australia (seven).
However, a 4-1 loss against minnows Ireland further affected their chances of making it to at least the bronze medal playoffs. However, India did manage to take away a memorable 5-1 victory against hosts Malaysia, who had showed a lot of promise.
Although he expressed disappointment with the loss against Ireland, India head coach Sjoerd Marijne he took heart from the way India came back to win the fifth-sixth spot classification match against the same opposition, which India eventually won 4-1.
"I think every match we improved. The first match against Ireland was the only match where our levels dropped a bit," said Marijne, speaking to Sportskeeda from Ipoh. "But luckily the team was able to recharge themselves for the last match and win the match today with a commanding performance. Good to see new players and also it was nice how the seniors took the leadership."
India started off their Azlan Shah campaign with a 3-2 loss at the hands of Olympic gold medallists Argentina. They followed that up with a 1-1 draw against England and a 4-2 loss at the hands of Australia.
"We had a few close games against high ranked countries so that gives a good feeling for future," said Marijne. "It’s not easy to play these kinds of matches and I am happy they experienced international hockey with the top sides. This will raise their level really fast and now it’s important they train hard."
India may have finished second from bottom, but Marijne, who had rested some of the top players in this tournament, believes that his side got a good run out in the tournament. Their ultimate goal, for now, remains the same.
"The ranking (in Sultan Azlan Shah Cup) doesn’t make a difference to what our goal is. This ranking doesn’t say much to me. Our aim at the CWG will be to win, like always," Marijne signed off.