Tokyo Olympics: Keep Emotions In Check, Avoid Cards, Graham Reid Tells Indian Men’s Hockey Team Ahead Of Semifinal


India men’s hockey team chief coach Graham Reid has told his players to keep their emotions in check and avoid cards against a strong opponent like Belgium in the Tokyo Olympics semifinals on Tuesday. India have made the semifinals of the Olympics after four decades with their last medal coming in the 1980 Summer Games. While Reid expressed that he was happy with the 3-1 victory against Great Britain in the quarterfinal on Sunday, he highlighted that getting two green cards and one yellow card in the game is something they must avoid against Belgium. “We fought hard and sometimes that is what you have to do in final situations of a crunch game like the quarterfinal. You have to fight, bite and scratch.

“We were very lucky yesterday because they (Great Britain) created more opportunities than us but our PC defence and Sreejesh especially were magnificent last night. They saved us,” said the Australian.

Reid said there is enough to learn from the memorable match against Britain. “But looking forward, the things we can learn from last night is that there is a difference between passion and emotion. Sometimes, we let our emotions take over.

“We need to keep 11 players on the pitch. The problem is that we played a lot of our game against Great Britain with 10 men on the pitch. We can’t do that against Belgium and think that we can be victorious. That will be the big message to the team today when we have a meeting,” asserted Reid.

Reid said three field goals from Dilpreet Singh (7′), Gurjant Singh (16′) and Hardik Singh (57′) against Britain were a big plus. However, he believes there is still some work to be done in ensuring a sustained attack.

“It was great to score field goals. We didn’t get any corners, so of course we also need to be working on a sustained attacking pressure which I always talk about with the players.

“As I said, against a team like Belgium, it will be very important to keep all 11 players on the pitch the entire duration,” added Reid.

India tasted success against Belgium in the FIH Hockey Pro League in 2020 when they beat the world champions 2-1 in their second game and lost 2-3 in the first. Prior to that, India had taken on Belgium in Test Matches where they beat them 5-1, 2-1 and 2-0 in 2019.

At the World Cup in Bhubaneswar in 2018, the Indian team had drawn 2-2 in their Pool C encounter against Belgium and had secured a 1-1 draw in the FIH Champions Trophy in Breda the same year, when India won a silver.

But in a tournament like the Olympics, head-to-head stats make little difference, emphasized team skipper Manpreet Singh.

“As far as Belgium is concerned, obviously they and Australia have been sharing the World No.1 spot for the last 18-24 months. So, in that sense, Belgium will be a very difficult opponent.

“But we have played them a fair bit in the past and have the experience of doing well against them too. So, we need to focus on the things that we can do against them and make sure that we are much more disciplined in defence and our structure is much better,” said the young captain.

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Looking back at the week in Tokyo, Manpreet highlighted the squad’s spirit to fight back. “If you look back into the week, and what this group has been through, I think we showed a lot of determination and the willingness to fight particularly in the game last night. That’s a real plus.

“We are going to need that same fighting spirit against Belgium tomorrow.”

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