'Don't give away penalty corners' - Graham Reid wants India to work on defence after European trip 

The Indian team remained unbeaten in their European sojourn

By Samrat Chakraborty

The Indian Men's hockey chief coach Graham Reid is content with India's display at the recently concluded European trip where they remained unbeaten. This was the first international trip for the team since the Coronavirus outbreak enforced a travel ban throughout the world. The Men in Blue were training at the SAI Centre in Bengaluru during the lockdown in a bio-secure environment.

But in their return to competitive action, they did not look rusty and outclassed Germany 6-1 on their home turf in the opening fixture of the exposure trip.

"I'm pretty happy with the performance; I'm very happy with the way the tour was -- from point of view of getting some international competition. That was really important," stated Reid.

In their next match, they drew 1-1 with Germany, then followed up with a similar result against Great Britain and went on to beat England 3-2 in the final match to end the trip on a high. Their next international assignment is in Argentina where they will be facing the Albicelestes in the FIH Pro League.

As Reid recognises, 2021 is about to accelerate into the Tokyo Games:

"We go back to Bengaluru from here and will be training there for a few weeks before we set out on another tour of our FIH Pro League matches in Argentina. I believe the next few months leading up to Tokyo is going to be busy for us with competition and some training in between where we will work on the things we need to. The Olympic year has well and truly started now for us and we need to accelerate our learnings."

Although the Indian team looked solid in defence, they gave away too many penalty corners which could have landed them in trouble if the opposition were a bit more precise in their attempts. Reid has made a note of that and wants to address the issue during the upcoming training sessions.

"Our performances against Germany was mixed. It was pretty good beating them 6-1, we took them by surprise and made good use of the opportunities, but we let too many penalty corners in.

"We will go over the data from this tour once we return to SAI, Bengaluru but the first thing that require attention is: making sure we tighten our defence. We allow them (opponents) to come back in the middle (of the game) a bit too much. The last match was a little bit better. We are starting to make some ground on that."

Reid is happy with the initial attacking build-up but feels that the team needs more teeth in the circle entries and penalty corners.

"We are getting into the 25-yard area a lot, we found that during our FIH Pro League matches too but we need to get better returns from our 25 entries. Convert them into circle entries, goal shots, and penalty corners. We have tried some different things here in Europe. Some things worked, some didn't. Overall, I am quite happy.

"The second game saw better defensive efforts from us. The 3rd against Great Britain was OK. It was a bit colder in Antwerp, different pitch and perhaps we didn't play as well as we should have. But the last game (where India beat GB 3-2) was first-class! We led most of the game, came back twice from a stalemate, scored in the last few minutes which is a really important thing to get over," stated Reid.