India keen on improving goal tally against the Dutch

For more than an hour, every member of the Indian team were put through shooting drills at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Stadium here, on Sunday, as coach Roelant Oltmans sought to make sure they were on target. After two contrasting performances in as many games, it is anybody’s guess which Indian team would take the field against table-topper Netherlands in its last league match of the Hockey World League Finals here on Monday.

Coach Roelant Oltmans would hope the team takes confidence from the attacking display that forced Germany on the backfoot.   -  Getty Images

For more than an hour, every member of the Indian team were put through shooting drills at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Stadium here, on Sunday, as coach Roelant Oltmans sought to make sure they were on target.

After two contrasting performances in as many games, it is anybody’s guess which Indian team would take the field against table-topper Netherlands in its last league match of the Hockey World League Finals here on Monday.

The aggressive, attacking team that forced Germany on the backfoot would be what Oltmans will be hoping for; the defensive, lethargic bunch that let Argentina run riot is what the Dutch wouldn’t want. And the visitors made no bones about their preferences.

“The Indian team has changed a lot since I last played them. I think the Indian team is now playing with a lot more control, which I feel will actually be helpful to us because we find it difficult to plan for when they constantly attack a lot,” Netherland’s key forward Seve van Ass said.

That should give Sardar Singh & Co enough indications of what their plan should be. Given the fact that all eight teams play the quarterfinals and the league games are only about deciding the line-ups, both teams are likely to make use of the last chance to sort out their concerns before the business end of the competition begins.

“Our aim is to score three goals in every match. So far we have scored only one in the tournament. I am pleased with our performance against Germany but the challenge is to maintain that level until the end of the tournament. We created a number of opportunities yesterday. The challenge for the next game is to score more goals,” Oltmans admitted.

The Dutch came here on the back of an impressive 6-1 victory against Germany in the European Championships final. They impressed with their expansive use of space, piercing runs through the opposition and accurate shots at goal. The team has sorted out most of their concerns but like every team, there are certain chinks that India would do well to explore – most important being its defence during penalty corners, something Argentina capitalised on.

For India, a lot of concerns seemed to have evaporated overnight after the draw against Germany. The attacks were sharper, the defence more robust and the midfield a strong link. There is a new-found confidence in the team. Look deep, though, and the problems become visible.

Committing fouls in the dying minutes is something the team can do without. This has become a trend – much like conceding last-minute goals in the past – and needs to be broken. The senior pros in the side – Ramandeep Singh, Akashdeep Singh and SV Sunil – are yet to pull their weight. The left flank remains a concern and closing down the right would hurt the host.

For now, however, the confidence is what matters to the team.