Indian hockey defender and penalty corner expert Harmanpreet Singh is confident of good showing in the Olympics, saying the team’s ultimate goal is to win gold in Tokyo.
Fifth ranked Indian hockey team smoked Russia 7-1 (11-3 on aggregate) in FIH qualifiers and are now geared up for the Olympics. Earlier, they had defeated them 4-2 in the first-leg of the two-legged qualifiers.
“We all work hard in our game and understand that expectations from the team have increased manifold. We are targeting gold medal in the Olympics,” Harmanpreet said during the launch of nutrition brand Musashi in India.
On being asked if there are any areas of improvement, especially in defense, he said, “I will not nitpick, but we do see the videos and make improvements. We try and not repeat those mistakes in future matches. We correct them during drills and practice sessions.”
“We have a completely different strategy when we attack. We focus on how we are rotating and controlling the ball. We watch our opponents carefully and understand the mistakes they are committing and what their strong points are. That’s what we focus on and discuss about during the meetings,” the 23-year-old, who provided the team a brilliant start when he converted a penalty stroke during the first-leg match against Russia.
Indian goal-keeper PR Sreejesh also stressed on the multiple areas where the team requires improvement, asserting that road to the Olympics will not be easy. When many expected India to register an easy win over a lower-ranked Russian team, the host had to grind hard to topple the Russians.
“There are multiple areas that we need to look after. Attacking and defense are there. When it comes to goal scoring, we would like to put more score board pressure on the opposition. Mistakes are there. We have to improve before the Olympics,” he said.
Speaking on the match, he said, “They were ranked 22nd and we were fifth. People were excited at the prospect of how India is going to thrash Russia. They definitely surprised us. They played really hard, which is a good sign. It’s not only about the rankings, it’s about how you are performing on the field. That’s a wake-up call for all of us. In Olympics, you will face good opponents and this shows that you have the chance to beat any team on a given day. It’s all about trusting yourself and giving your hundred per cent,” he said.
Team’s seasoned dragflicker Rupinder Pal Singh believes that qualifying rounds are not easy and Russia performed well because it was a decisive match for both the teams.
“I think first match was a sloppy one. We missed chances in the first game but credit also goes to them to come out with such a performance. The most important thing is that we have qualified for the Olympics,” he said.