India address late goal concern to boost Rio hopes

Thu Jun 16, 2016 3:07am EDT
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By Sudipto Ganguly

MUMBAI (Reuters) - Leaking late goals has been something of an Achilles' heel for the Indian hockey team but captain Sardar Singh believes his team have addressed the issue as they head to Rio looking for the country's first Olympic medal in 36 years.

Once-mighty India are the most decorated nation in the sport's Olympic history but the South Asians collected the last of their eight gold medals way back at the Moscow Games in 1980.

Having failed to qualify for the Beijing Games in 2008, the team representing a nation of 1.3 billion people did recover to seal a spot at the London Games four years later only to finish last among the 12 countries taking part.

India, in Pool B along with Argentina, Canada, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands in Rio, have often been hamstrung by an inability to stay competitive in the final 15 minutes.

"We have worked a lot on not conceding goals at the end," Singh, who has been rested for India's Champions Trophy campaign in London, told Reuters. "The main thing is concentration.

"Hockey now is very fast and you need to focus every second in a match. The training sessions have been very good but it now depends on how we execute."

India did concede a late goal in the 57th minute against South Korea on Tuesday but scored within seconds to go up 2-1 for a victory against their Asian rivals.

Under Dutchman Roelant Oltmans, who became India's high performance director in 2013 and then was appointed coach last July, a relatively inexperienced team finished second behind Australia at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia in April.   Continued...

India's Sardar Singh (L) challenges New Zealand's Ryan Archibald during their men's Group B hockey match at the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Riverbank Arena on the Olympic Park August 1, 2012.        REUTERS/Dominic Ebenbichler