The Indian men’s hockey team would look to continue its experimentation and test its bench strength ahead of a busy calendar year, despite suffering its second defeat in the tournament, when they take on Argentina in the two-legged FIH Pro League tie beginning here on Saturday. The Indians slumped to their second defeat in the FIH Pro League, losing 3-5 to Spain in the second leg at the Kalinga Stadium here on February 27.
Tokyo Olympic bronze medallist India’s other defeat came against France (2-5) last month.
But despite that, India are currently placed second in the standings with 12 points from six matches, including four wins, behind Netherlands (16 points).
India chief coach Graham Reid continued to test his reserve players to broaden the team’s base ahead of this year’s Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games, which is a qualifier for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Midfielder Moirangthem Rabichandra Singh, a member of the FIH Junior World Cup squad, will make his debut against world number six Argentina. The home team will also witness Olympic medallist striker Gurjant Singh’s return from a brief injury lay-off.
The Indians also made a few changes in the main squad from the Spain tie.
Goalkeeper Krishan Bahadur Pathak has taken the place of Suraj Karkera while Amit Rohidas and Jugraj Singh have replaced Mandeep Mor and Dipsan Tirkey in the backline.
Jaskaran Singh and Akshdeep Singh made way for Sumit and Rabichandra in the midfield.
The Indian think-tank continued to repose faith in young strikers Abhishek and Sukhjeet Singh and drag-flicker Jugraj Singh.
In fact, the Indian team management has named Amit Rohidas as skipper in place of Manpreet Singh, and Mandeep Singh as his deputy for this tie to broaden the team’s leadership group ahead of the important year.
The Indians have been hit hard by late goals in both the defeats and going forward, the team’s backline will have to lift its game by leaps and bounds to counter stronger oppositions.
India’s captain for the tie, Rohidas said they have worked on their errors and is confident of putting up a good show against Argentina.
“We have analysed the errors that we made in the previous game against Spain, and we have trained and planned accordingly. We have had discussions within our leadership group about the areas we need to improve upon. We have worked on those areas and we are confident we will put up a good showing,” Rohidas said at a pre-match virtual press conference.
India had previously played against Argentina at the Tokyo Olympics 2020 where they had defeated them 3-1 in the pool stages.
The two teams also met each other in 2020-21 FIH Pro League in Argentina last year, in which India picked up wins in both the games, one of which came in the shootout.
“We have seen videos of our matches against Argentina and we have planned accordingly. They have been in good form this season. So, we have been in constant discussion on what strategies we have to create to stop their attacking set-ups. Our focus and our practice sessions have been designed keeping the same in mind. We hope to stick to our plans and be successful in implementing the same,” Rohidas said.
Argentina, on the other hand, are placed sixth with nine points from four games.
The visitors would be brimming with confidence having defeated England 2-0 and 3-1 in their previous tie.
The Los Leonas also stunned Olympic champions Belgium 2-1 before losing 0-2 in the return leg.
Argentina captain Matias Rey gave a brief glimpse of his team’s strategies in the upcoming matches.
“As a team, we feel we have to play like we have played the last couple of matches against England. We have to be really strong on the ball. When we don’t have the ball, we have to be really aggressive and inflict pressure when we can. Our goal right now is to win both the games against India,” Rey said
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