HWL: India face a tough ask against Belgium

When the host take on Belgium in the semifinals on Saturday, the coach would hope the preparations translate into successful execution on the turf. Having made the last-four stage regularly in competitions in the past one year, it's time for the team to step up.

India wil hope Talwinder Singh to continue his good form in the Final.   -  Getty Images

On Friday, for the first time since arriving here for the Hockey World League Finals, the Indian team did not get down on the turf. It was not a rest day, coach Roelant Oltmans insisted, just a day off from the pitch. “They have a lot to do off field as well to prepare, it's different,” he said.

When the host take on Belgium in the semifinals on Saturday, the coach would hope the preparations translate into successful execution on the turf. Having made the last-four stage regularly in competitions in the past one year, it's time for the team to step up. It certainly wouldn't be impossible but India would have to be consistent against a dangerous Belgium.

“If you ask me whether we will be able to give a performance like this (as against Great Britain) again then frankly speaking I am not sure about it. But of course in the next two days we will work towards that. It’s nice to be in the semifinals but it’s time to win a medal in a major tournament and this is a major tournament and that’s what we are aiming for,” Oltmans said.

Belgium not at their sharpest

Belgium, still getting used to new coach Shane McLeod, has been scrappy here. It thumped Canada 7-2 in a league match and managed to edge past Argentina 2-1 in the quarterfinals by not conceding penalty corners to neutralise Gonzalo Peillat. But the famed structure and sharp attacking skills, which have made them one of the most improved and consistent sides in the last few years, has been missing.

Even against Argentina, the Red Lions were not able to dominate much and their victory was as much due to Argentina’s lack of an alternate plan. That said, midfielder Alexander Hendrickx has ensured Sebastien Dockier, Tom Boon and Thomas Briels receive a steady supply of balls upfront.

McLeod insisted he was keen to get his players the experience of playing in India. “A secret wish of mine was having the guys experience playing India in India. It’s a fantastic opportunity and India, when they have a game to play, they certainly play. I think they are going to be a really tough opponent,” the New Zealander said.

Need to improve more: Sardar

The Indians have faltered at this stage more often than they would have liked and Sardar Singh admitted there were areas of concern. “We defended very well. It was a team effort but as a team we need to improve more. We need to work our mistakes. If we want to compete against the best teams we need to work on the minor details of the game,” he said.

More than anything else, India needs to ensure that the GB win doesn't make the players lower their guard and stick to the game plan regardless of the situation. Against GB, the team continued to follow a structure and pass the ball despite errors. It needs to continue doing that instead of returning to old habits of holding the ball and showing off possession skills.

It is either a world level medal after 33 years or yet another disappointment.