India chief coach Graham Reid on Wednesday gave credit to his defenders for propelling the team into the semi-finals of the FIH Odisha Hockey Men's Junior World Cup 2021.
The Indian defenders especially Yashdeep Siwach, vice-captain Sanjay and Sarda Nand Tiwari came up with a brilliant performance that helped India keep Belgium at bay for a lone goal victory at the Kalinga Stadium and set up a last-four clash with six-time champions Germany on Friday.
Tiwari scored the all-important goal in the 21st minute off a drag flick after Sanjay sold a perfect dummy and swung the ball in front of him for the 17-year-old from Uttar Pradesh to plant a powerful flick past into the Belgium goal.
"Yes, our defence today was much better than it was in the first game against France. We are doing a lot of work on it. Our marking was tighter today, maybe not in the first ten minutes of the game. I was just talking to Vivek (skipper Vivek Sagar Prasad) about it and the good part is that we know that we can play much better, you know," said Reid in the post-match press conference.
The coach also praised both goalkeeper Prashant Kumar Chauhan and Pawan for their super performance. "Both keepers played very well today, it was nice to see them shine," he said.
Reid said that they still have work to do and there are areas on which the team needed to concentrate during the one-day break ahead of the semi-final.
"We got work to do and that keeps us busy in the next two days," said Reid, adding that the team management will be looking at the clips and picking out areas on which they have to work on.
He said it was part of the plan to change goalkeepers after every quarter. India started with Prashant Chauhan in the goal with Pawan replacing him in the second. It was keeper Pawan who was in the goal in the final quarter and pulled off some brilliant saves that saved India and helped them reach the semis.
"The thing about giving keepers quarters is that it tells them that we trust them and it's a nice thing to have if a coach trusts you, then you can play with confidence. At the end of all this hopefully, we are gonna come out with two keepers that have played in the World Cup semi-final or final, whatever we end up getting into. It's a nice experience to have. That's the sort of logic behind that. The game has changed a lot in the sense that in normal play we play a lot of rotations, so probably it makes a bit of sense (to change after every quarter). At the end of the day, they are both very good keepers and they complement each other, one is good at some parts and the other is good at others. So, it also makes sense for that," said Reid.
Asked if he had to pick one striking aspect of the Indian team's performance so far, Reid said he will pick the fight his boys have shown after the debacle against France.
"The one thing that impressed me the most was the fight put up by the team. It was evident in the first seven minutes of the game we were a bit asleep but after that everywhere in the game, there was a focus about their game, their effort and as a coach that's the only thing you can ask for and sometimes you don't do all the right things if the effort is there, that's what I am impressed by," he said.
Reid said India can't afford to take Germany lightly in the semi-final as they always have strong teams in this age group. Germany are the most successful country in the Junior World Cup having won the most titles. They were winning titles even when I was playing, he said.
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