Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) : After ending their group stage with a 2-2 draw against Canada, Indian men’s hockey team skipper PR Sreejesh said his side are fully geared up both mentally and physically for their quarter-finals clash against Belgium, which is slated to be held on Sunday. The Indian team would have certainly liked a win against Canada but the draw has done little damage to the spirit of the team as they finished fourth in Pool B.
“Canada was playing their last league match and they gave their 200 per cent. It was not that we played badly but we had some good opportunities to score, we missed out on crucial penalty corners which affected us but the team is 100 per cent ready both mentally and physically for the Belgium attack,” an affirmative Goalkeeper and Captain Sreejesh said after the match.
Though Belgium’s only medal-winning performance in the Olympic Games came in 1920 when they won a Bronze, the team has tasted success over the recent past where they have given a tough fight to top teams like Australia who they played in the Final of the FIH World Hockey League Final in Raipur last year. It is also an experienced side, with the majority of the squad having surpassed the 100 International appearances mark including treble centurions John-John Dohmen and Jerome Truyens as well as double centurions Cedric Charlier, Thomas Briels, Felix Denayer and ace striker Tom Boon.
Although Belgium are ranked at No.6, one below India, Sreejesh believes they would turn out to be a tough side to beat.
“We cannot say that they are ranked below us so they are an easy side to beat. Going by statistics, Belgium has won four matches in their pool and have lost only one. So it is a tough team to beat but I think it’s all about how we cope with pressure on that day and that will be the key point,” stressed the 28-year-old skipper.
He, however, was quick to admit that the mood in the Indian team camp was upbeat and the men are excited to be part of the Quarter Final line-up.
“The team is confident and very excited to play the Quarter Finals. The way we have performed with consistency has given the team the motivation and self-belief to win. We need to give our 100 percent on that day (Sunday) and that’s what we aim to do,” he stated.
On being inquired about his deputy SV Sunil’s injury-scare which he sustained during the match against Canada, Sreejesh said that there is no need to panic. “He is getting better. He had some pain in his wrist and there was some inflammation soon after the fall. But the scan did not show anything which means he is fit to play the Sunday’s Quarter Final,” he said.
The Sreejesh-led side had booked their place in the last eight after Argentina and Germany settled with a 4-4 draw in their group clash.
India, who finished fourth in Pool B, had last reached the final eight stage of the Olympics in the 2004 Athens edition after which they failed to qualify for the Beijing Games before finishing last in 2012 London Games.
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