Young guns on target as India thrash Argentina to book a quarterfinal spot

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Harmanpreet Singh in action against Argentina. (Source: HI)

Tokyo: A resilient performance by the India men’s hockey team saw them register a commanding 3-1 win against defending Olympic champions Argentina in their fourth Pool A encounter here at the Oi Hockey Stadium on Thursday.

With three wins from four games, India occupy the second spot in the table and almost secured a place in the quarterfinals with one match remaining to be played against hosts Japan on Friday. Dragflicker Varun Kumar (43rd), Vivek Sagar Prasad (58th) and Harmanpreet Singh (59th) scores for India while Argentina’s lone goal came from Maico Casella (48th).

Having already two wins in the FIH Pro League in April against the same opponents, India went inside with an intent to put the opposition under the pump right from the start and that was evident with dominant ball possession.

They tested the Argentine defence with as many as seven circle penetrations and a potential shot on goal in the fourth minute when Dilpreet Singh failed to muster a powerful shot past opposition custodian Juan Vivaldi from a Simranjeet Singh pass.

India’s midfield and defence looked rather compact as they put up a structured defence that kept the Argentine forwards out of India’s circle. The second quarter saw India make nine more circle penetrations and took two more shots on goal, but they lacked the finishing touch.

With both teams locked in a goalless stalemate at the break, India managed to break the deadlock in the third quarter early. After Rupinder Singh failed to convert two back-to-back PCs in the 42nd minute, Varun’s powerful shot from a Shamsher Singh injection went past Vivaldi to fetch India their first goal in the 43rd minute.

The last few minutes in the third quarter saw India being awarded three more PCs. While two of Harmanpreet’s attempts were blocked well by Argentina rushers, the third attempt saw India create a smart variation, but Vivaldi was on point to make a brilliant save. Casella brought Argentina back into the game when his impeccable drag-flick went into the top right corner in the 48th minute.

Just as it looked like the match would end in a tie, Dilpreet, inside the ‘D’, received a good pass, turned around to position him to take a shot on goal but it bounced off Vivaldi’s pads. However, Vivek gave it a finishing touch with just a little nudge into the net. India’s 2-1 lead was extended in the penultimate minute when Harmanpreet converted a PC, ensuring them a place in the quarterfinals.

“This is what Argentina can do, they sit back in the game, and then all of a sudden they score a corner. You know these things can happen when you play a team like Argentina. It can be a bit stressful too for me but we just now need to play well against our next opponent – Japan. We need to play it as though it is the quarterfinals and we will be keeping an eye on what happens in the other pool at the same time,” India head coach Graham Reid said after the match.

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