Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

India coach Graham Reid was effusive in his praise for India’s strong defensive performance against Spain in their opening encounter of the ongoing FIH Odisha Men’s Hockey World Cup at the Birsa Munda Stadium in Rourkela on Friday. India won the match convincingly by a 2-0 margin.

Reid could not stop smiling after the game.

“It is our best defensive performance since the Tokyo Olympics,” said Reid after the match.

Before the match in Rourkela, India had conceded a total of 44 goals in their last 10 encounters dating back to the final of the Commonwealth Games against Australia. In between, they played Spain twice and ended up conceding five goals in those games.

However, the team showed remarkable improvement against Spain last night as they ticked all boxes. They started aggressively and made the first entry inside the Spanish circle within two minutes. Despite scoring two goals, complacency didn’t creep in and the team defense stood resolutely during the last quarter to thwart the opposition strikers from any chances of penetration.

“The really great teams in the world make their decisions on the pitch. It’s like putting your kids out there and letting them run. They make their mistakes but let them also learn. We have to let the players take their own responsibilities,” said an elated Reid.

“The defensive effort was really good and we handled the ball pretty well. There were not too many people who didn’t play well. Everyone playing at the highest level, that’s why you need to win at the World Cup,” Reid signed off.