HWL Finals: Clumsy India goes down to England

The host went down 3-2 against England in a scrappy Hockey World League Finals Pool B match on a day of upsets that saw lower-ranked sides getting the better of their higher-placed opponents, by identical 3-2 margins.

Action during a Hockey World League Finals match between India and England in Bhubaneswar on Saturday.   -  Biswaranjan Rout

India coach Sjoerd Marijne had praised his team’s discipline after the first game against Australia. Captain Manpreet Singh had spoken about the structure. Both were missing on Saturday as the host went down 3-2 against England in a scrappy Hockey World League Finals Pool B match on a day of upsets that saw lower-ranked sides getting the better of their higher-placed opponents, by identical 3-2 margins.

Every previous coach of this team had been frustrated by India’s inconsistency and unpredictability. Marijne would be the latest addition to the list. The host was erratic and off-target. England wasn’t too better but it took full advantage of India's mistakes.

There was little to choose between the sides except for the extra goal for the visitor. And the Indian team was partly responsible for all three.

The control on the situation and ball possession seen earlier were both missing. India tried to hustle the opposition, indulged in some body-play and tried to use the aerial route but couldn’t connect. The one-touch play was absent, the players held on to the ball too long and there was none of the give-and-go that the team had practised for ever since Marijne took over.

READ: HWL Finals: Belgium, Spain register upset wins in Pool A

“This was not the gameplan we had, we need to stick to the basics and do the simple things right,” SK Uthappa said at half time, with India trailing by a goal. That had come off a goalmouth melee that saw David Goodfield’s attempt take a deflection from the inside edge of goalkeeper Suraj Karkera's pads and go in. It showed the team knew the problem; it just didn't know how to rectify it. The third quarter – second half – was equally disjointed.

India's defence had stood out the previous day, for all the right reasons. It was in the spotlight again, but for all the wrong reasons.

England’s second goal by Sam Ward was gifted by Harmanpreet Singh’s trapping error, an out-of-place goalkeeper Akash Chitke and no back-up. The third was due to poor marking my Manpreet Singh. Amit Rohidas hardly took the field in the final quarter. The speed was too slow. The turnovers conceded too many and earned too little. The shots went off target too often. India’s concerns on the day were simply too many.

MATCH DETAILS

The host did try and recoup in the last 10 minutes. There was urgency in the attacks and with field goals not coming, the focus shifted on earning penalty corners. India got them too, five of them, and scored twice – one a rebound and the other direct hit – to level scores. But while England stuck to its plan and kept pressing ahead

India, despite the momentum, could not hold on to the structure. And paid for it. As has been said may times over, results at this stage matter little.

But for India, momentum has always been important. Hopefully the two games so far would have given Marijne an idea of which team he would want to turn up against Germany in the final pool match on Monday.

The results

Pool A: Belgium 3 (Loick Luypaert, Amaury Keusters, Tom Boon) bt Argentina 2 (Maico Casella, Gonzalo Peillat); Spain 3 (Pau Quemada, Enrique Gonzalez, Diego Arana) bt Netherlands 2 (Lars Balk, Mirco Pruijser).

Pool B: Germany 2 (Martin Haner, Marco Miltkau) drew with Australia 2 (Blake Govers, Aaron Kleinschmidt); England 3 (Sam Ward 2, David Goodfield) bt India 2 (Akashdeep Singh, Rupinderpal Singh).

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