Olympics hockey: Need to tighten game, says Reid ahead of Australia match

Indian men’s hockey team chief coach, Graham Reid, was satisfied with his team getting its campaign off to a winning start against New Zealand but said they need to focus on tightening their game both in attack and defence.

India have to convert more chances they create and avoid giving their rivals opportunities, Reid opined after India’s nervy 3-2 win on Saturday.

India rode on a brilliant performance by goalkeeper PR Sreejesh, who made many crucial saves especially in the fourth quarter, and a brace of goals by drag-flicker Harmanpreet Singh to beat New Zealand 3-2 in a Pool A encounter.

Coach Reid said the Indians need to tighten their game in the attacking third as well as at the defensive end in the upcoming matches, especially the next game against Australia on July 25.

“We probably could have put away the first few opportunities we created. It may have made the game a little less close. I think that is what we need to focus on. We did well in converting the PCs (penalty corners), but we need to look at reducing the numbers (of PCs) we were giving away,” Reid said in his post-match comments.

India made 25 attacking circle penetrations but could attempt only 11 shots at the goal. They had five shots on target but could not score any field goal. The Indians earned only five penalty corners and converted two of them.

But the statistics that worry Reid more would be 21 attacking circle penetrations made by the Black Sticks and 10 penalty corners they earned. And as Reid said, that’s the one area they have to work on. India’s defence on the penalty corners was strong with Amit Rohidas and skipper Manpreet Singh rushing out fast so as not to allow Kane Russel and Nick Wood the time to execute their drag-flicks properly.

Indeed giving so many opportunities could prove disastrous against stronger teams like Australia, Belgium, Netherlands, and Germany.

Though he has his task cut out to get his lads to pull up their socks, especially the midfield and forward line, Reid was happy with his team earning three full points In its opening match.

“Winning three points in a competition like the Olympic Games is important. I think we had a good second and third quarter but in the first and fourth we struggled a little bit. When we watch the video later today, we will be able to find out what we need to get better at, and surely there are going to be things we learn from today too.

“But at the end of the day, we haven’t played for 3-4 months in an international competition, that’s the reality. As far as the weather was concerned, the players handled it really well,” Reid was quoted as saying by Hockey India on Saturday.

Asked about their next assignment against world No. 1 Australia, Reid, who won a silver medal representing the Kookaburras in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, said it would be a tough encounter.

“They are always a tough competitor. I believe they had a shaky start today against Japan, is what I was told by third-party sources. We have half a day today to have a look at both the games. We have already prepared for Australia back in Bangalore but watching the video will always help us see what new tactics they have now. It will be a tough game tomorrow and our players are up for the challenge. It’s always good to win the first game at the Olympics and get the three points on board,” said Reid who coached Australia in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Though they are favourites for the title, the Aussies looked a bit vulnerable against Japan on Saturday. May be, It was because they could not play their usual quota of international matches in the last 15 months because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

But having survived a scare against Japan, the Kookaburras are expected to come back strongly on Sunday and Graham Reid’s Indians would have to be at their absolute best to get past them.