After tense win over Argentina, India face tough Dutch test
Rio de Janeiro : Virtually assured of a quarterfinal spot after their morale-boosting win against Argentina, a buoyant India will face world number two side the Netherlands in a tough pool B clash in the Rio Olympics here tomorrow.
After a close 3-2 win over Ireland in their opening match, India suffered a disappointing 1-2 loss against the reigning Olympic champions Germany but bounced back to notch up a 2-1 win against Argentina to remain among the top four in the six-team pool.
The target now will be to finish the league stages as high as possible in the points table so as to avoid the world number one Australia in the last eight fixture.
“We are only done with three matches and have two more to go. We need to play harder and better because it will determine whom we play against in the quarterfinals,” goalkeeper and captain P R Sreejesh said.
“The higher we finish in the points table, the lesser ranked team will play with us from the other pool,” he added.
India will look to get inspiration from their win against the Netherlands in the ‘World League Final’ at home in December last year.
“Netherlands are one of the top ranked teams in the world and a win against them will give us more confidence. It is important that we keep up the rhythm. They have an experienced line-up and to do well against them means we need to be extremely well-prepared both mentally and physically,” the captain added.
The task will be cut out for the Netherlands-born coach Roelant Oltmans who was at the helm of the Dutch team when they won their first Olympic gold 20 years ago, in Atlanta 1996.
Having started off with a 3-3 draw against Argentina, the Netherlands, the London 2012 silver medallists, have picked up the momentum by hammering 15 goals in three matches to sit second in the Pool B table behind defending champions Germany.
After their drawn match against Argentina, they blanked Ireland 5-0 and in their last tie, they routed Canada 7-0.
“It is up to us to find a strategy to get closer to them or maybe even beat them,” said Oltmans.
“We have already played quite a number of matches against them, and everyone knows that when I work for India I just want one thing, and that is to beat my own country.”
The Netherlands have an experienced captain in Robert van der Horst, the 2015 FIH Player of the Year, a two-time Olympian and 2012 silver medalist who is hoping to lead the second-ranked Oranje to their first Olympic gold since Sydney 2000.
“We knew we had to grow in this tournament. We couldn’t play our best hockey in the beginning of the tournament, we know that. The two emphatic victories have given us a good vibe,” he said.
In the heart of the Dutch attack will be the baby-faced Jorrit Croon, who turned 18 during their win against Canada, yesterday.
“I didn’t expect a year ago that I would be celebrating my 18th birthday at the Olympics. It’s a really special moment to be celebrating over here,” Croon said.
India survived a nerve-wracking fourth quarter against Argentina, holding on to their 2-1 lead. For India, the key would be their defence to hold firm in the dying stages.