Erratic India go down 3-0 to Argentina

The Indian men's hockey team went down 3-0 to Argentina in the opening match of the Hockey World League Finals here in Raipur.

India will take on Germany and the Netherlands in the other group stage matches.   -  Getty Images

Old habits die hard. The Indian men's hockey team has been trying to do so for the past few years but against Argentina in the opening match of the Hockey World League Finals here, the hosts paid the price for relapsing into erratic, unplanned action to lose 3-0 on Friday.

It was worse than the previous encounter between the two teams, when Argentina beat India 4-2 in the Champions Trophy last year. This was also India's fourth straight loss to the Pan-American champions, whom it last beat in 2009.

Two days back, Oltmans had insisted that there were “no areas of concern” for him. After the match, he had to admit it was “a disappointing game” where the players “tried to press ahead from the second quarter onwards but not enough to worry Argentina”.

Right from the word go, Argentina made their intentions clear. Jasjit Singh Kular took the ball on his hand inside the striking circle and Gonzalo Peillat converted the ensuing penalty corner to put his team ahead in the 3rd minute. The Los Leones would go on to convert two more, one after time, to stamp their authority.

“The win was not a surprise. We know our plan and today it was perfect. We could have scored more goals but we are happy to beat India in India,” Argentina coach Carlos Retegui said post-match. His players would agree.

India, in contrast, were disjointed, dispirited and in disarray despite better possession (52%). The opening goal put the hosts on the back-foot, there was clear lack of communication, admitted to by captain Sardar Singh after the game, the team “did not stick to the gameplan” and made errors in every department.

The first two goals were defensive lapses with goalkeeper P. R. Sreejesh left to fend for himself amidst unmarked Argentinian forwards. Sreejesh did bring off a few good saves but not enough to keep Argentina at bay.

The visitors earned nine penalty corners, every one of them through foot foul, to India's one. Though Rupinder Pal Singh sent some impressive cross-field passes and Birendra Lakra thwarted the opposition attacks, there was not much support.

The first of India's only four shots at goal came in the 26th minute. Next minute, Ramandeep Singh was all alone inside the D with goalkeeper Juan Vivaldi but failed to trap the ball. A minute later, Akashdeep Singh deflected the ball outside from in front of the goal.

India tried to open up the game by shifting the ball across the flanks but they were unsuccessful. They tried to force PCs but failed.

Oltmans insisted the tournament was far from over – the format assures every team plays the quarterfinals, making the league matches less important – but agreed that a repeat performance would be a concern.

“Every one in our side is clear that we want to show a different India tomorrow. My biggest concern is that our performance was by far below our normal level today,” he said.

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