New Delhi: A confident goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh on Monday said the Indian hockey team will be in top shape at the Rio Olympics in August but cautioned that the opener against Ireland will be “tough”.
Sreejesh, who has been one of the crucial fixtures in the Indian side, stressed the importance of winning at the pool stage to qualify for the quarter-finals.
“Our focus will be to take one match at a time. The key is to win as many matches in the pool stage so that we find ourselves in a good position amongst the top four teams to play in the quarter-final,” Sreejesh said on the eve of the selection trials for Champions Trophy (June 10-17) and the Six Nations Tournament in Valencia.
“Playing Ireland in the first match will be tough as we haven’t played against them since the 2014 Commonwealth Games. However, the way we are preparing, I am optimistic we will be in top shape for Rio.”
The 29-year-old, who made his international debut with the senior men’s team in 2006 at the South Asian Games in Colombo, said the team was focused on finetuning its game in the camp at SAI Centre in Bengaluru.
“Earlier, we would make visible mistakes. Now that that has been rectified, we have been paying a lot of attention to details, how to create situations, making set pieces and also trying out new tactics that we will try in the following tournaments.
“We train twice every day and the goalkeepers clock three sessions under the tutelage of Dave (Staniforth), who is an Olympian from South Africa,” the 2014 Asian Games champion added.
“We go in early before the morning session along with penalty corner specialists and train with them. We have psychology sessions thrice a week at noon and regular training in the evening. We are giving it our all.”
Being part of the bitter campaign at the London Olympics where the team finished 12th, Sreejesh said: “We know what it means to do well in the Olympics. Winning a medal is a dream.
“We tell the juniors what it’s like being in the Olympics and we can’t let ourselves get distracted by the presence of elite athletes or being overwhelmed by meeting a sporting icon in the dining room. It is about our performance and that should be our focus.”