Hockey World Cup 2018: Can longer gap break a team's rhythm?

The International Hockey Federation (FIH) may have to do some rethinking over the scheduling of matches in the World Cup after the exit of three out of four teams that got direct qualification to the quarterfinals in the current edition.

Indian captain Manpreet Singh and Thijs van Dam compete for the ball during the quarterfinal match at the Kalinga Stadium.   -  Getty Images

The International Hockey Federation (FIH) may have to do some rethinking over the scheduling of matches in the World Cup after the exit of three out of four teams that got direct qualification to the quarterfinals in the current edition.

Barring top-ranked Australia, which played the lowest placed France in the last eight, the World Cup journey ended for Argentina, Germany and India after their quarterfinal losses. Interestingly, all these teams got a break of three to five days between their last pool matches and the quarterfinal engagements.

Germany got three days off, while India and Australia got a break of four days each. Argentina did not have a match for five days.

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Some experts felt a longer break can be a double-edged sword. While it can help in rest and recovery of the players, it can also adversely affect the rhythm of the teams before a crucial match.

After his team upset Argentina, England coach Danny Kerry pointed out that the Olympic champion “had a different problem” of getting five days off while the Englishmen had only a day's break before the quarterfinals.

Former India captain and coach V. Baskaran said the longer break could have been detrimental particularly in case of India.

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“Full four days rest before a big match could upset the rhythm. In a tournament, more than training match tempo and rhythm are important,” said Baskaran.

“The Europeans play on weekends. But our players, in (premier domestic tournaments like) Nehru hockey, are used to playing for three days continuously. So, the amount of oxygen you take, and the muscle power is set accordingly.”

Clarence Lobo, this year’s Dronacharya award winner who was part of the Indian team's coaching staff some years ago, agreed. “The players get relaxed because of a long break. What kind of training you want to do and how much training you want to do is the question.

“For me, four days’ gap is a problem as it can break a team's rhythm,” said Lobo.