Harendra Singh: India’s road to Tokyo 2020 ‘a lot bumpier now’

The head coach laments India’s loss to Malaysia in the Asian Games semifinals.

Harendra Singh called India’s surfeit of unforced errors on Thursday “unpardonable.”   -  K. Murali Kumar

India’s loss to Malaysia in the semifinals of the Asian Games is a “big setback for Indian hockey,” according to head coach Harendra Singh.

India lost 7-6 at the sudden death stage after having been held 2-2 at regulation time. The results has put paid to India’s hopes of gaining a gold, which would have given the team automatic qualification for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. The defeat makes the road to that event “a lot bumpier now,” admits Harendra.

‘Too many unforced errors’

Reflecting on India’s performance, he said, “Malaysia are the deserving winners. We committed too many unforced errors and paid the price. We did not keep things simple. We tried to show our Indian skills and by doing that we lost the momentum. It is a big setback for Indian hockey. The road to Olympics is a lot bumpier now. We missed the easiest chance to qualify.”

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Stunning India isn’t new for Malaysia; the team had defeated India in the semifinals of the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou.

Asked why Malaysia continues to trouble India, Harendra said: “They were only looking to score on the counter and both their goals came from the counter. We had a plan to shift and pass but we tried to hold the ball and made parallel passes. That cost us the game. Also, we committed too many unforced errors. It is unpardonable.”

‘Anybody’s game’

Harendra, however, said India were not at all fault in the shootout. “Shootout is anybody’s game. If we would have won, we should not have celebrated. In shootout, turning around is a problem. If your centre of gravity is low then it is easier (to turn around), if it is high then it becomes a problem,” he said.

India had pumped in a record 76 goals in the group stage. Did it make them complacent? “I don’t think so, we took them as serious practice matches. We never take any team lightly. But this loss is a setback for Indian hockey. Coaches will come and go.”

India still has to fight it out for the bronze playoff. “The boys will have to pick themselves up. There is still a medal at stake,” Harendra signed off.