CHENNAI: Ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Shivendra Singh, Indian men's hockey team coach, had termed the Manpreet Singh and Co. as one of the medal contenders. And it came true on Thursday with India defeating Germany 5-4 in a high intensity goal fest to win an Olympic medal after 41 years.
Singh, who is involved in analysing and assessing the team’s data from training and matches, is one of the key members of the backroom staff of the Indian team and worked closely with chief coach Graham Reid to script the team's fairytale at the Games.
Speaking on the historic triumph, the former India striker said the team learnt lessons following their heartbreaking semifinal loss to Belgium and came out with a definite plan to counter challenges from Germany in the bronze medal playoff.
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"We gave some easy access to Belgium in our D in the semifinal. A few easy fouls didn't help our cause either. So all these things were in our mind when we went back. We decided to avoid these mistakes and planned accordingly. As has been the norm, we watched the videos of the Germany team and chalked out strategies accordingly. We also decided to ensure we try to stop Germans outside the scoring area as far as possible. I am happy our plans worked," said Singh, who was part of the 2010 Commonwealth Games silver winning team.
India conceded a penalty corner in the dying seconds with Germany trailing just by a solitary goal. That made everyone nervous but not Singh, who was confident in the abilities of goalkeeper PR Sreejesh and rusher Amit Rohidas to thwart opponents' every attempt.
"It's suicidal to run in front of a ball coming at such a high speed but Amit did that for us throughout the tournament. Defending the flick which comes like a bullet just with a stick needs guts. He has taken 20-25 blows during the Olympics. Two of them hit his abdomen straight forward. It must be painful but now everything has been forgotten, especially after this podium finish," added the 38-year-old from Gwalior, who was part of the Indian team that had won the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in 2010.
Amit's daredevilry has forced opponents to change strategies and this has worked wonders for the Indian team, opined Singh. "If you manage to stop two penalty corners by rushing into the dragflicker at a lightning speed then it forces the rivals to change the plan. And Amit did exactly the same by taking those body blows."
The team is expected to reach the country on August 9 or 10 but before that the players are expected to let their hair down. Singh, however, preferred not to disclose the plans. He instead advised to watch them in action once again but on a different field this time around.