Penalty corners and defence hold the key for India, say Fernandes & Carvalh

Mumbai:- When the Indian team takes on Great Britain in the quarterfinals of the men’s hockey tournament at the Olympics on Sunday, they have to be careful of three things — convert penalty corners, defend strongly and attack incisively.

Olympians Merwyn Fernandez and Joaquim Carvalho have picked these three crucial areas of the game on which the Indians have to focus if they have to put it across the British and reach the semifinals for the first time since the 1972 Olympics. India have not won a medal at the Olympics since beating Spain in the Moscow Olympics final in 1980.

The team has to take it as a do-or-die match. “The temperament for the quarterfinal has to be different as it is a knockout match and we can’t come back if we lose this match,” said Fernandes.

Converting penalty corners will be the key to India’s success in the quarterfinal, says Fernandes. “I have said at the start of the Olympics that if we can convert 50 per cent of the short corners we earn, we would be on the podium. Conversion of short corners has become a very important factor in all our matches. It we had done that against Australia that day — they scored and we could not score of our short corners — the complexion of the match could have changed. So, that is important,” Fernandes told IANS on Saturday.

“We have three guys with us (who can take short corners), so (they) should take maximum advantage of it,” said Fernandes.

Fernandes, who was a member of the gold medal-winning team at the Moscow Olympics, said the team has played very well after the big defeat to Australia.

“I have to give them full credit they have come back so strongly against both these teams — Spain and Argentina — and then against Japan.

“One normally would not have been so serious in the last game because they had qualified. But I would give them full credit because as we all know that winning momentum has to be maintained, and they have done it right. They didn’t let go and made wholesale changes. But they did what they do well and should continue to do the same in the quarterfinal too,” said Fernandes.

Carvalho, who represented India in the 1984 Olympic Games, said the Indian attack has to be sharp and incisive. “The forwards have to be at their best on Sunday. In most of our matches, barring the one against Japan, we have depended on penalty corners to score. The attack has to be sharp and incisive,” he said.

Fernandes wants forward Lalit Upadhyay to contribute more to the attack. “The other forwards (Simranjeet, Gurjant and Shamsher) have scored goals, I think Lalit should get more chances and he should score some goals.”

Fernandes said the Indians should expect Great Britain to be physical and should be ready for such tussles. “They will be very physical so the India players should be ready for that,” he added.

Carvalho said the Indian defence has to be solid as it has conceded a lot of goals so far. “Even if we ignore the 7-1 defeat against Australia, we conceded three goals against Japan, two against New Zealand and one against Argentina, they are a lot of goals and they have to tighten the defence and not allow Britain so many chances,” said Carvalho.

Both said the team has the ability to finish on the podium but it has to play at its best against Great Britain and take it forward from there.