High ball to long passes: Creativity on hockey turf

The ongoing Hockey World Cup has presented several instances of improvisations adopted by teams.

Mats Grambusch (left) of Germany attempts to play a scoop shot during the quarterfinal match against Belgium.   -  Getty Images

On a hockey turf, sometimes teams can find it difficult to breach the impregnable wall of the opponent and get into the circle. In such a scenario, improvisations adopted to outwit the rivals create spectacular moments in a match.

The ongoing Hockey World Cup has presented several such instances containing high dose of entertainment for the crowd. For example, India's fine comeback against Belgium in pool stage and England's excellent quarterfinal victory over Argentina were built on foxing the opposition with aerial passes.

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“Hockey is becoming a game of key moments – turnovers, long corners, free hits, penalty corners. In normal moments, it's more difficult to create an opportunity.

“You see the trend of more and more high ball play. Also, they do a bit with defence strategy of the teams like India did against Belgium. In the first half they played everything on the floor and struggled and in the second half they played more and more high ball and suddenly the Belgium team was struggling,” said France coach Jeroen Delmee.

England coach Danny Kerry explained how his team's presence of mind earned it the crucial second goal, originating from a fabulous aerial ball by the seasoned Barry Middleton, and the lead against Olympic champion Argentina.

“It’s more of a case of we trying to understand their man-to-man marking and manipulate spaces. When they defend high and bring the players up there is an opportunity of going for the top. So, it’s not like set play. Players make good decisions about manipulating the spaces when they (Argentina) come up and we go over the top. The set plan is about moving around and then understanding where the space is.”

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In spectators’ gallery, two-time World and Olympic champion Dutchman Stephan Veen was excited to see the creativity shown by teams in breaking stubborn defence of their opposition.

“You can send a high ball into the 'D', hit hard or give a diagonal pass and deflect. The opportunities to create a chance is huge. That makes it a bit unpredictable. The matches could be very close because of that and it’s good for spectators,” said Veen.