Argentina and India men set for FIH Hockey Pro League clashes

Reigning Olympic champions Argentina play India on Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 April.

Following last weekend’s double FIH Hockey Pro League defeat against Germany, reigning Olympic champions Argentina will be looking for a Buenos Aires bounce-back when they play India on Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 April.

Los Leones suffered 2-3 and 0-3 losses against Die Honamas on home soil last weekend, which were Argentina’s first competitive matches for over a year due to the impact of the Covid-19 global health pandemic. Speaking after the second loss against Germany, Argentina’s Nicolas Keenan said: “Apart from the result, we are happy to be back after one year. Even in the negative points, we can take something positive from those. We are just three months from the Olympic Games, so we are happy to be back. We did a lot of negative things, but in this moment, it is good because we have time to improve them.”

This week, the Argentina team has started to put Keenan’s words very much into action. The team coached by Mariano Ronconi has played two friendly matches against this weekend’s opponents India and performed well, narrowly losing the first contest 4-3 before securing a 4-4 draw in the second game. With the teams currently sitting one place apart in the FIH World Rankings (IND 5 | ARG 6), the results are indicative of how closely matched these two nations are on current form. While the outcomes might be difficult to predict, 15 goals in just two friendly matches suggests that we could be in for two action-packed, high-scoring Pro League encounters this coming weekend.

Although India have played some practice matches in recent months, this weekend’s fixtures against Argentina will be their first FIH Hockey Pro League games since February 2020. India made an impressive start to their debut Pro League season, recording wins against World and European champions Belgium and World Cup silver medallists the Netherlands, as well as claiming a draw against Australia before snatching a bonus point by winning the shoot-out. They currently sit level on ten points with Argentina, despite having played four games less than the Rio 2016 Olympic gold medallists.

Head coach Graham Reid has instilled a steely belief in his extremely capable team, making India a big threat not just in these matches but also at the upcoming Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, where they will be aiming to win a ninth Olympic gold medal, and a first since Moscow 1980.

However, like Argentina, Reid feels that there is still plenty of room for improvement from his team. Commenting on India’s second friendly against Argentina, where India surrendered a 3-1 lead, Reid said: “Unfortunately, some turnovers in the second half gave them opportunities to come back. You can’t give a team like Argentina chances to get back in the game and not expect them to take it. On the weekend, we need to be more mindful of our thoroughness at both ends of the pitch ensuring we are more frugal in defence and clinical in attack.”