The Indian men’s hockey team secured its spot in the quarterfinals of the Tokyo Olympics with a 3-1 win over defending champion Argentina in a Pool A game at the Oi Hockey stadium in Tokyo on July 29.
The side — stung by the Aussies in its second group game — has bounced back with two wins on the trot and will take on host Japan in its last group game on July 30.
Fresh from a 3-0 win over Spain, Graham Reid’s team played with gusto and looked composed throughout. The transition from attack to defence was seamless, with Amit Rohidas acting as a bridge between the two ends of the pitch.
The Indian side took the fight to the opposition from the onset, with Harmanpeet Singh making repeated forays into the penalty circle.
India nearly went ahead in the 25th minute as Nilakanta Sharma’s defence-splitting pass found a diving Simranjeet Singh, but the latter's attempt went wide.
India goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh, untested for most part, made his first save in the 27th minute, a sharp block to his left. The Indians dominated the first half but had nothing to show for it.
Manpreet's men began to find some success in the circle only after the 40th minute — winning seven penalty corners in quick succession. The opening goal came off the third penalty corner when Varun Kumar sounded the boards.
Argentina struck back in the 47th through Maico Casella, who found the target off the side’s first penalty corner.
However, India was rewarded for its relentless aggression as Vivek Sagar Prasad turned home Dilpreet Singh’s cross.
Soon after, Harmanpreet fired in a ferocious drag flick to widen the margin.
Skipper Manpreet said that the win over the reigning champion was crucial, and stressed the need to remain grounded.
“It was a very important game for us. We will not fly and let this result get to our heads. The tournament is not over, we have a game against Japan on Friday and then the quarterfinals,” he said.
Reid, too, was pleased with his side’s performance. “A couple of strategies worked out today and that was pleasing to see. Our gameplan was very well executed," he said.
"We created opportunities but just could not put them away. The message at half-time was just don’t get frustrated. I used the example of Wednesday's game between Australia and New Zealand, they finished the job (Australia won 4-2) – that’s what good teams do,” said Reid.