India have created history in Rio Olympics, reaching the hockey quarterfinals of the quadrennial event after 36 years. What makes this feat special is that they have done so with a game to spare. The Indian players will be keen to finish the group stages with a win as they prepare to face Canada on Friday.
India have lost two matches and won two, but their losses against Germany and Netherlands have been a tight affair, which could have easily ended in a draw. With such close affair against European giants behind their back, and victories against Argentina and Ireland, they seem to be a determined outfit this time around.
If Roelant Oltmans' men manage to script a victory against Canada, they will finish in the third place, irrespective of how Argentina vs Ireland match ends. India have been a huge threat in penalty corners, with VR Raghunath and Rupinder Pal Singh in ominous goal-scoring form.
India even went all out for a win against the Netherlands, removing goalkeeper PR Sreejesh to draw level. It is such positive attitude, which has helped the team in RIo 2016. However, India could not draw level against Netherlands despite getting a barrage of penalty corners after the hooter had gone.
"We took out the goalkeeper four minutes before the end of the game as a strategy because that adds a player to your team and whether we lose by 2-1 or 3-1 does not matter. In the dying moments you want to go all aggressive to save the match," Sreejesh told reporters after the game.
"We got many opportunities even playing with nine players, but unfortunately we could not convert the penalty corners that we got. It was not a good day for us. It was rather a bad day."
However, Oltmans will love to see his forwards including SV Sunil and Akashdeep Singh to find their name on the scoresheet via a field goal. If their forwards starts to score consistent goals, and drag-flickers get their arch right from the penalty corners, India can go go a long way in the competition.
Sunil has always been effective using his pace to open up other teams's defence, which has not happened consistently in Rio. The Indian forward can use this match to get into sharp form ahead of their quarterfinal contest.
With India having secured quarterfinals berth, they will need to work on various aspects as they cannot afford any hiccup in the knockout stages. To be fair, India's defence has also stood firm against most of the teams, though, they have been inconsistent sometimes. They need to get their game right in all departments against Canada, and continue their impressive performances in the knockout stages.
India might have played some good hockey to reach the quarterfinals, but they cannot afford to take Canada lightly. Their opponent have not won a single game in Rio Olympics, so they will be keen to finish on a high, defeating India.
Where to watch live
India vs Canada is scheduled to start from 9 p.m IST (12:30 p.m local time, 4:30 p.m BST, 11:30 am ET)
Netherlands: TV: NOS.
UK and Ireland: TV: BBC. Live Streaming: BBCiPlayer.
Brazil: TV: SporTV, Globo, Fox Sports and ESPN.
Argentina: TV: ESPN and DirecTV. Live Streaming: ESPN Play Latin America.
Australia: TV: Channel 7, 7Two and 7Mate. Live Streaming: Channel 7 online.
Germany: TV: ARD and ZDF.