Junior Hockey World Cup: Indian aggression runs into Belgian control in quarterfinal clash

India coach Graham Reid said he hopes his team will emulate Malaysia in capitalising on Belgium's vulnerabilities while listing India’s strengths including counterattacks, variety of drag-flickers and midfield. 

Y. B. Sarangi
Indian Junior Hockey team captain Vivek Sagar Prasad practicing in between the FIH Junior Hockey World Cup 2021 matches at the Kalinga Hockey stadium in Bhubaneswar.

When Belgium head coach Jeoren Baart said his team struggled against Malaysia in the pool stage because of its tight defence, probably he gave away a cue to India on the eve of the men’s hockey Junior World Cup quarterfinal contest between the two sides at the Kalinga Stadium here.

For India, which loves its free-flowing attacking hockey, it would be a challenge though. India’s weaknesses came to the fore early on in the tournament when its defenders’ vulnerability in the face of swift counterattacks from France resulted in the defending champion’s 5-4 shock defeat in its first pool engagement.

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India chief coach Graham Reid said India’s last win in the 2016 final over Belgium had only a little significance as the present side, which got its DNA from its current World No. 1 senior side, was a formidable one. 

“We also saw some vulnerability the Malaysians were able to capitalise on and hopefully we can do that tomorrow,” said Reid, while listing India’s strengths including counterattacks, variety of drag-flickers and midfield. 

Reid said India must intercept better. “Perhaps we did not do that well enough against France. That's the area we have been working mostly.”

India will miss the services of an able forward, Maninder Singh, who picked up an injury in the last match and has been replaced with Bobby Singh.

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Baart wanted his side to maintain its structure to survive the waves of attack from India. “It will be a fantastic match-up with a lot of aggression from India and a lot of control from us,” said Baart.

The Belgian coach acknowledged the threat from the Indian drag-flickers. “For us, it starts with defending with a very high discipline, try to defend outside the circle and don't fall into the trap of giving easy PCs (Penalty Corners) away.”

Baart said Belgium would wisely use the long passes and aerial ball to explore the spaces in the Indian half. “We will try to mix it up. We will see how we will use these weapons,” said Baart.

The results (9th-16th places):

South Africa bt Canada 7-3; Pakistan bt USA 18-2; Poland bt Chile 2-1; Korea vs Egypt 3-3 (Shootout: Korea bt Egypt 6-5).