For a long time after the match, the talk revolved around tactics, pressure, and gameplan before Harmanpreet Singh finally acknowledged what everyone had seen – India was not at its best against Wales despite the 4-2 win and the team needed introspection.
“We are not satisfied, it was not our best game to be honest. Because we know we can do better,” the Indian captain admitted.
“We had to play our best game. Our target was to not go after the ball to avoid mistakes. Our focus was to not force the goals if they are not coming...they played defensive, (and) crowded the circle...we can improve finishing. In such matches where we have to score, pressure on the ball meant less energy. We gave them chances to play easy balls.” he added.
It was as candid an admission as would come – India was expected to go on a goal spree, and they just might have done, if only the team did not bother with the pressure of scoring. In that sense, the Welsh had managed to tick an important box – force the host off its natural game.
Coach Graham Reid, always ready with a smile, didn’t bother with one post-game and tried to explain the performance, crediting Wales as well.
“It’s tough against a team like Wales, you are bumping your head against the wall to go through. For me, tonight was about good flow, we achieved that in some parts of the game. England did a pretty good job, (which) makes it a lot more difficult (to get the goal difference – India needed a margin of 8 to go to the top). I told the team not to worry about that. We played well in patches but if you don’t finish the game, that’s what happens,” he said.
The finishing, in fact, has been India’s biggest concern so far in the tournament despite the penetration and possession. At one point against Wales, India had a the ball for a massive 83 percent of time. It did not convert into goals.
“We got in each other’s way, crowded a bit too much in the circle. We were behind the game at the back a bit too much and not getting enough pressure on the ball. We did very well against England and Spain, not sure we had as much pressure tonight. And of course, the outcomes in the circle...,” Reid listed some of the areas he is likely to work on with the boys over the next two days before taking on New Zealand, themselves struggling to get going so far. There were positives too, though.
“One of the positives was that we had to fight. When you have to fight for things, that stands you in good stead. It’s (the crossover against NZ) going to be tough. We played them here in the Pro League, they will come out like Wales did, energised,” Reid admitted.
Getting only two days to prepare versus five if they had topped the pool is also, hopefully, part of the fighting process.
A win on Sunday will pit India against Belgium/Germany in the quarterfinals after the latter topped Pool B to become the final direct qualifier in the last eight. The going will only get tougher but as Reid said, there is never a clear road to the top, least of all in a World Cup.
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