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India look to bounce back; As they take on Spain to keep the qualification mark alive in Tokyo Olympics

11:23 PM Jul 26, 2021 | PTI

Tokyo: Thoroughly outplayed by Australia, the Indian men's hockey team would be desperate to rebuild a shattered morale when it takes on a lower-ranked Spain in its third Pool A match of the Olympics here on Tuesday.

After a fighting 3-2 win over New Zealand in their campaign opener, the Indians were completely steam-rolled 1-7 by world no.1 Australia in their second game.

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The debacle exposed every possible chink in India's armour.

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The mighty Kookaburras simply toyed with the Indian defence after the first quarter and scored goals at will to comfortably secure their second consecutive win in the competition.

It was also India's biggest loss since Australian Graham Reid took charge of the team as coach in April 2019.

The fragile Indian defence was put under relentless pressure by the Kookaburras from the onset and in doing so, they succeeded in creating spaces in the mid-field which resulted in as many as seven goals -- four in the first half and three in second.

After a hard-fought win against New Zealand, the Indians, ranked fourth in the world, looked completely listless against Australia.

But having faced multiple adversities in the run up to the Games, the Indians very well know how to bounce back and that is what chief coach Graham Reid would be banking on going into the tie against world no. 9 Spain.

Going by the points table, India are currently placed fourth just below New Zealand on goal difference. The pool is being headed by Australia with two wins out of as may matches, followed by reigning reigning Olympic champions Argentina with four points.

Spain and hosts Japan are yet to register a win in the two matches they have played.

Top four teams from a pool of six each will qualify for the quarterfinals.

The Indians looked nowhere close to their best against Australia on Sunday as they failed to make even one of the six penalty corners count in the match despite having three world-class drag-flickers in Harmanpreet Singh, Rupinder Pal Singh and Amit Rohidas in their ranks.

The forward-line led by Mandeep Singh, Shamsher Singh, Lalit Upadhayay and Dilpreet too looked off colour.

The mid-field,a key area in international hockey, was nowhere to be seen with only skipper Manpreet showing spark in patches.

The ever-fragile back-line was completely absent as the likes of Rupinder, Harmanpreet, veteran Birender Lakra and Rohidas were completely outplayed in numbers by the attacking Australians.

Experienced custodian PR Sreejesh wore the look of a disappointed man as he failed to stop the Australian surge, allowing as many as seven goals past him into the net.

But having said that it will be a completely different day on Tuesday for the Indians and chief coach Reid, who coached Australia in the Rio Olympics, said the Indians will have to utilise the chances that come their way.

"We simply have to put the ball in the net to put some scoreboard pressure on them and that means making use of the chances that come your way," he had said after Sunday's loss.

Drawing references from the Euro 2017 championship in Amstelveen where The Netherlands lost 0-5 to Belgium but eventually beat them in the final, Reid said: "We are very wary about our morale being affected. We will make sure it won't happen."

START TIME SPORT EVENT ATHLETE

6:30 AM HOCKEY Men's Pool A India v Spain

7:30 AM SHOOTING 10m Air Pistol Mixed Team Bronze Medal Match; S Chaudhary/M Bhaker & Y Deswal/A Verma (TBC if they qualify)

8:07 AM SHOOTING 10m Air Pistol Mixed Team Gold Medal Match; S Chaudhary/M Bhaker & Y Deswal/A Verma (TBC if they qualify)

8:30 AM BADMINTON Men's Doubles Group Play Stage S Rankireddy/Chirag Shetty v Ben Lane/Sean Vendy (GBR)

8:30 AM TABLE TENNIS Men's Singles Round 3 Ma Long (CHN) v Achanta Sharath Kamal

8:35 AM SAILING Women's One Person Dinghy - Laser Radial - Race 5; Nethra Kumanan

8:45 AM; SAILING Men's One Person Dinghy - Laser Radial - Race 4; Vishnu Sarvanan

9:35 AM SAILING Women's One Person Dinghy - Laser Radial - Race 6 Nethra Kumanan Men's One Person Dinghy - Laser Radial - Race 5 & 6; Vishnu Sarvanan

10:57 AM BOXING Women's Welterweight R16; Lovlina Borgohain v Nadine Apetz (GER)

11:45 AM SHOOTING 10m Air Rifle Mixed Team Bronze Medal Match; A Moudgil/D Kumar & E Valarivan/D Panwar (TBC if they qualify)

12:22 PM SHOOTING 10m Air Rifle Mixed Team Gold Medal Match; A Moudgil/D Kumar & E Valarivan/D Panwar (TBC if they qualify)

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