New Delhi: Former hockey captain Dilip Tirkey feels the Indian defenders would hold the key when they take on The Netherlands in their opening match of the London Olympics on July 30.

"India will play Holland in the opening match and Dutch are known for their aggressiveness. Defenders hold the key against them," said Tirkey.

"We have Ignace (Tirkey) in deep defence. However, he will have to give not just his best but also inspire others to do well," the three-time Olympian said.

Tirkey, who helped the Indian defenders before the qualifiers and also went to Spain with the team ahead of the Olympics, doesn't expect them to have a podium finish.

"One has to do well consistently to win Olympic medal, which is lacking in our team. We win one match handsomely and then lose the other one. Still I think that this team has the potential to be in top six, which will be an achievement in itself," Tirkey, who is currently a Rajya Sabha MP, said.

Tirkey's assessment was based on the Europe tour, which he thought would be extremely beneficial for the team.

"We played well in the first match against Spain but lost the other one. Against South Africa also we were leading and then conceded goals at the last moments. I have observed significant progress in attack but defence has to work harder," said the once unbreachable Tirkey.

He also said that players must maintain the form and morale after every win like all the top teams in the world do.

"Sandeep and Raghunath must play like they did during the qualifiers. Form of Ignace in defence, Shivendra and SV Sunil in forward line and Sardara in midfield will be crucial."

It will be the first ever Olympics for the entire Indian team, except Sandeep and Ignace, but Tirkey feels it would not put additional pressure on the team.

"There is pressure to perform in Olympics and it is positive. We have played against many top teams in last two years. Players should take it as any other tournament and then there will be no pressure," he said.

(Agencies)

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