Breda: India captain P.R. Sreejesh has urged his teammates to show their "burning desire" as they need at least a draw in their final round-robin game against the Netherlands here on Saturday to reach the final of the Hockey Champions Trophy.
With top-placed Australia cementing their place in the final with 10 points with a match left, the contest for a place in the title showdown against the defending champions boils down to the match between second-placed India and third-placed Netherlands, who have seven and six points respectively. "It will be like a semi-final match for us and that's how we will approach the match against the Netherlands," asserted veteran goalkeeper Sreejesh on Friday. "I asked the team, we have seen the trophy on display but how badly do we desire to hold it. It is that burning desire to hold the trophy that will give us the edge and we are only one step away from the final," Sreejesh concluded. In case of a draw, fourth-placed Argentina could also come into contention but the Olympics 2016 champions have an inferior goal difference as compared to India (+4) and the Netherlands (+6). India had a brilliant start to their campaign here with wins against Pakistan (4-0) and Argentina (2-1). But their momentum was snapped by a narrow 2-3 loss to Australia and a 1-1 draw against Belgium on Thursday.
Against World No.3 Belgium, the Indian defence lacked the calmness and compactness they showed in their earlier matches. The team's defence could hardly make a dent on the Belgian attack that made 26 circle entries, forced 12 penalty corners of which five were earned in the final quarter and took 26 shots on goal. While drag-flicker Harmanpreet Singh was India's only goal scorer, Sreejesh's performance stood out as he guarded India's goalpost, making over a dozen saves to keep Belgium from taking the lead. "Yesterday was a lucky day I feel because 12 penalty corners are too much to concede and the match could have turned in their favour. We can't afford to give away penalty corners like that and if we want to see ourselves do well against the hosts then we need to work hard on tackles, reduce unforced errors and we must control the game when it is really required," expressed Sreejesh. He further added that the team played on par with the Belgians until the third quarter but things changed dramatically after Belgium decided to pull their goalkeeper out. The hosts Netherlands, coached by Max Caldas, began the tournament with a 1-2 loss to Olympic champions Argentina but came back strongly with a 6-1 win against Belgium and followed it up with a 4-0 win against Pakistan. However, a 1-3 loss to Australia on Thursday has pushed them to the third place in the standings. But they will surely come out all guns blazing backed by the home crowd when they take on India. Sreejesh said: "Yes the Netherlands will have home advantage but playing in front of large crowds is not new to us. We are up for the challenge in the crucial match. We will debrief today after watching videos from yesterday. We will come up with a specific game plan for this decider match." (IANS)