It took 86 years but when the Indian men’s hockey team walked off the turf here on Wednesday, it had broken its own record of the biggest victory margin ever with a 26-0 mauling of Hong Kong.
The result overshadowed the 24-1 India had registered against USA at the 1932 Olympics but, more importantly, it gave the boys the right momentum ahead of what coach Harendra Singh said was the “real beginning of Asian Games competition.”
His boys felt the same. For the record, the previous biggest margin in Asian Games for India was 12-0 against Iran in 1974. The highest ever in the world is a massive 37-0 win by New Zealand against Samoa in 2015. “Yes, I knew the record and I am happy this team has set a new one but I was looking more at the structure and discipline of the team. The way they played the ball, moved ahead, executed the plans were areas of interest for me. Records are meant to be broken but for now, these boys are part of a historical win and I am sure they will savour it. It will also give them that little extra confidence ahead of the next match, knowing they have done something special,” he said.
If anything, the result margin wasn't as big as was expected given the way India had started off. Fourteen goals at half time — seven in each quarter — and Harendra admitted the pace dropped off post break. But he blamed it more on experimenting and attempting variations than any complacency. “If they were complacent then they wouldn’t have scored so many. But these first two games were ideal for us to practice our plans ahead of the actual competition that starts with Japan next,” he added.
Read: At half-time, coach Harendra told players, 'create legacy'
India took over a minute to get the first goal, and then kept coming at the target. The ball entered the Indian half a grand total of five times through the match. The last of them was in the penultimate minute, when Hong Kong received a penalty corner and India was without a goalkeeper, but it was overturned. Fourteen Indians got on to the scoresheet with Rupinder Pal Singh scoring the five.
Learning curve for Hong Kong
Asked about a goalkeeper’s role in such games, captain P. R. Sreejesh was generous. “Such matches are actually sometimes difficult because you never know when a stray ball might come and beat you. Staying alert in such games is difficult but you have to do it. Also, we must not forget that we were losing by huge margins to other top teams not too long ago and have fought our way up here. I am sure teams like Hong Kong and Indonesia will also learn from such experiences and get better,” he said.
Harendra, though, was still looking at areas of improvement. “Clean movement and sharpness inside the D. There will always be areas to get better,” he said.
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