HWL: India face a tough task against Great Britain

India finished its league engagements without a win at the bottom of Pool B; GB finished on top of Pool A, unbeaten in the competition. The results could not have been more contrasting but the teams realise that they count for nothing here on. The business end begins only now.

Manpreet Singh and skipper Sardar Singh (right) will have to be at their best to overcome Great Britain.   -  Getty Images

Searching for its first win in the competition, India would be hoping to find some consistency in its game as it takes on Great Britain in the quarterfinals of the Hockey World League Finals here on Thursday.

India finished its league engagements without a win at the bottom of Pool B; GB finished on top of Pool A, unbeaten in the competition. The results could not have been more contrasting but the teams realise that they count for nothing here on. The business end begins only now.

The last time the two teams met, GB dismantled India 5-1 in the HWL Round 3 in Antwerp. A lot has changed since then except for GB's impressive, structured attacks and the rock-solid defence that helped it upset Australia and become one of the favourites for the title.

Indian forwards have been wayward

Ashley Jackson and Chris Griffiths – who scored four of the five goals for GB – are part of the senior bunch left behind as coach Bobby Crutchley tries to find his best 16 for Rio. The Indians have had successful series against Oceania heavyweights Australia and New Zealand. But none of it matters now.

India's forwards have been wayward, making mistakes in the basics of trapping and passing. Ramandeep Singh, Akashdeep Singh, Talwinder Singh, S. V. Sunil, Mohd. Amir Khan have fluffed a few chances in the three games so far.

Coach Oltmans has defended them, saying the final pass upfront has not always been accurate enough. The midfield, though, has been an incessant feeder line, making up in quantity what, as per Oltmans, it lacks in quality.

India has other things to worry about as well. The forwards haven't been able to create penalty corners either. The defence has held up for most parts but it has let in goals to neutralise some good tackling. The third goal conceded against Netherlands came immediately after Rupinder Pal Singh was sent out for a foul.

We have not been consistent enough: Oltmans

The Sardar Singh-led side was lacklustre against Argentina, inspired against Germany and oscillated between sublime and ludicrous against Netherlands. Oltmans admitted to the inconsistency. “We've not been consistent enough, that's very clear. We have been good in certain phases. There's room for improvement. The important thing is we need to be patient and take some time when we execute our plans. The boys are playing the way I want them to play,” he said.

Strategic coach Roger van Gent, here for about three weeks now, had a different view. He wanted the Indians to run with their head high, while controlling the ball, to locate the best-placed teammate. Other than Sardar and to some extent Birendra Lakra, not many in this team can do that.

GB coach Bobby Crutchley summarised it up: “India has put up a mixed show so far. They played well against Germany but did not have good games against Holland and Argentina, as per the results. But then all teams are expected to raise their standards in the quarterfinals and I am sure India will be tough as well. Even we have played mixed hockey so far, we have to improve on a few areas. The main tournament starts now.”

Quarterfinals: India vs Great Britain (6.30 pm), Belgium vs Argentina (8.45 pm).