Indian men’s hockey team‘s recent form has been nothing short of impressive and chief coach Graham Reid wants his charges to continue the momentum as they prepare to take on World No. 22 Russia on the 1st and 2nd November at the Kalinga Hockey Stadium in Odisha.
India won the FIH Men’s Series Finals Bhubaneswar 2019 in June, the Tokyo Olympics 2020 Test Event in August and then won all their five matches against World Champions Belgium and World No. 8 Spain as part of their preparations for the much anticipated FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers.
Speaking ahead of the announcement of his team for the Qualifiers, Reid said that he is satisfied with the performances his team put in against Belgium and Spain but wants his players to maintain the momentum when they take on World No. 22 Russia on 1st and 2nd November 2019 here at the Kalinga Hockey Stadium.
“We have been in the process of debriefing our Belgium Tour to go back and work out what we did well, what were the things we needed to improve on, and then come up with the objectives that we are going forward with in the coming two weeks. We have almost finished that process and its been a really good exercise for the team, and it is also good for the players that they understand what are the things that they do when they are playing well. There were things like good pressure on the ball, good structure and those things were quite evident when we went back to see how we played in Belgium. We’ve had a good week here in Bhubaneswar to determine what were the outcomes from that preparatory tour, and now is the time to continue working in that direction,” said Reid.
World No. 5 India’s unbeaten run on the Belgium Tour is down to the consistent level of intensity shown by his team, feels Reid. “For me, the good takeaways were that our GPS numbers were great, which means that the running, effort, speed and intensity was actually even higher than last year’s World Cup. So they were very good numbers for us to see, and for the players to understand that to play at that level, you need to be achieving those consistently. Another part was the consistency of our performances against Belgium and Spain, and it was good to see that we kept building momentum as the tour progressed,” he said.
Reid, who took over as the chief coach in April this year, also spoke about the return of few players from injury during their Belgium Tour. “The players who have been long-term injured, returned to the team in Belgium, and I feel it was good for them to get back into the groove of playing consistently at that level. It was a really good experience for them to be able to play again, and it also gave me an opportunity to see them closely, and now select the best 18-member team for the upcoming FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers Odisha,” he said.
Looking forward to the challenge of playing Russia at home, Reid said that his team will be focused on doing the right things and producing a good performance. “There is always the concern about playing a team like Russia and it is, that they hold the ball very well, they like to be in possession. Trying to get the ball off them is always difficult, so that is something we need to keep an eye on, and make sure that our tackling, interception, and pressing skills are at the highest level. We want to make sure that we are playing at our best, and there will be no complacency. It does not matter who we play, we will approach the game in the same manner, that is, in a professional and respectful way,” Reid said.