Olympics Hockey: India overpower Argentina 3-1, confirm place in quarter-finals
New Delhi, July 29, 2021
Playing an all-out attacking game, India overpowered defending champions Argentina 3-1 for their third win in their fourth Pool A encounter to assure themselves of a place in the quarter-finals of the Men's Hockey competition in the Tokyo Olympics at the Oi Stadium in the Japanese capital on Thursday.
This victory has put India at the No. 2 spot in the pool A table with one more match to be played against hosts Japan on Friday.
Dragflicker Varun Kumar (43'), Vivek Sagar Prasad (58') and Harmanpreet Singh (59') were the scorers for India. Maico Casella (48') scored for Argentina.
Having secured two wins (3-2 against New Zealand; 3-0 against Spain) and a bitter 1-7 loss against World No. 1 Australia in their Pool A campaign before today's match, India started aggressively against Argentina and controlled the proceedings for most of the 60 minutes of the game.
India kept the Argentine defence under pressure with as many as seven circle penetrations and a potential shot on goal in the 4th minute when Simranjeet Singh from the top of the circle setup Dilpreet Singh who was positioned well in front of the post, but the youngster failed to beat Argentina's veteran keeper Vivaldi Juan Manuel.
India's midfield and defence looked rather compact and played as per the plan that kept the Argentine forwards out of their circle.
In the second quarter, India made nine more circle penetrations and took two more shots on goal, but they could not beat the 42-year-old Vivaldi who stood like a rock guarding Argentina's post.
Even though the Indians had more ball possession, Argentina's solid defence did not concede easy penalty corners.
After a barren first half, India forced three penalty corners early in the third quarter. Though Rupinder Pal Singh failed with two back-to-back opportunities in the 42nd minute, Varun Kumar did well as he intercepted a good pass from Shamsher Singh and with a powerful strike sent the ball past Vivaldi to give his side a 1-0 lead in the 43rd minute.
The last few minutes in the third quarter saw India earning three more penalty corners. While two of Harmanpreet's attempts were blocked well by Argentina rushers, the third attempt was made with a smart variation, but Vivaldi again brought off a stunning save.
A rare Argentina counter followed which fetched them a penalty corner in the 48th minute and Maico Casella, with an impeccable drag flick, sent the ball to the top right corner to make it 1-1.
Buoyed by the equalizer, Argentina upped the pressure and forced another penalty corner in the 53rd minute but the danger was warded off by a good defence by Indian rushers.
With a little over three minutes of play remaining, Dilpreet inside the circle received a good pass, turned around to position himself to take a shot on goal but it bounced off Vivaldi's pads. However, Vivek Sagar Prasad gave it a finishing touch with just a little nudge into the net.
India's 2-1 lead was extended in the 59th minute as Harmanpreet converted a penalty corner to ensure his team's place in the quarter-finals.
"Good performance today. 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," said coach Graham Reid after the match.
"We again put our opportunities away, we created enough. But what was good is that we didn't let that frustrate us, we stayed patient and stuck with the game plan.
"I'm very happy, 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 quarter-finals and we will be keeping an eye on what happens in the other pool at the same time," he added.
India will next play hosts Japan on July 30.