Rio de Janeiro, Aug 10 (IANS) India will aim to keep their winning momentum intact when they take on the Netherlands in their penultimate men’s hockey Pool B encounter here on Thursday.

India started their campaign with win 3-2 win over Ireland, but went down to reigning Olympic champions Germany 1-2 before getting back to winning ways against Argentina with a 2-1 victory on Tuesday.

India will go into this penultimate match of Pool B with six points and are currently placed at No.3, after two-time defending champions Germany and last edition’s runners-up Netherlands, in the points table.

The victory against Argentina on Tuesday was emphatic also because it gave them their first win in last six matches against the South American side.

India have so far scored most of their goals via penalty corners, with Rupinder Pal Singh scoring three goals in as many matches.

A confident Indian skipper PR Sreejesh anticipated the next two matches in pool stage will be crucial in determining their opponent in the quarter-final. India will face Canada in the last pool match on Friday.

“We are only done with three matches and have two more to go. We need to play harder and better because it will determine whom we play against in the quarter-finals. The higher we finish in the points table, the lesser ranked team will play with us from the other pool,” Sreejesh said.

A close 3-2 win against Ireland in their opening match, a nail-biting 2-1 loss against Germany, and a convincing 2-1 win against Argentina, only goes to prove that the team is gaining the required momentum and is improving their performance match-by-match, assessed Sreejesh.

“If you see, the team has gradually improved from where we started. The opening match with Ireland was tough with a close win. But the second match against Germany was totally different. We had improved considerably from the first match though we did not score as many goals,” the ace goalkeeper said.

“In the third match, we scored and also played well in all the areas. I can see the consistency in the team and the way we are performing is instilling confidence in every player. If we keep up this momentum, then definitely I feel we can do wonders,” stated the 28-year-old from Kerala.

Speaking on the game against Netherlands, he said, “Netherlands is one of the top ranked teams in the world and a win against them will give us more confidence.

“It’s important we keep up the rhythm. They have an experienced line-up and to do well against them means we need to be extremely well-prepared both mentally and physically.”

After being held by Argentina 3-3 in their first match, the Netherlands have thrashed Ireland 5-0 and Canada 7-0.

Led by 2015 World Player of the Year, Robert van der Horst, the Dutch team boasts of some of the best technically gifted players. The European champions are known for their tactical and calculated game.

Van der Horst has been a key figure in the Dutch defence and in his 262 appearances, he has shown his long-range passing skills to great effect. He will be paired in defence with Mink van der Weerden, who is also a terrific drag-flicker. Behind the duo will be veteran Jaap Stockmann in goal.

Weerden is in fine form, scoring six goals in the past three matches. His goal tally now stands at 70 goals from 100 matches.

The Dutch midfield has some of the best creative midfielders in Billy Bakker (135 caps), Robert Kemperman (145), Sander Baart (110) and Valentin Verga (12) — they will give a tough test to their Indian counterparts.

They have two experienced attackers — Jeroen Hertzberger (88 goals in 186 matches) and Rogier Hofman (202 matches) — apart from young forwards like Bob de Voogd and Mirco Pruijser.

    The IANS was founded by Indian American publisher Gopal Raju as the India Abroad News Service. It was later renamed the Indo-Asian News Service.

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