India crashes out of World Cup, finishes sixth

In the other match of the day, Belgium defeated two-time champion Germany to progress to the semifinals of the 2018 Hockey World Cup at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar.

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

In Harendra Singh’s own words, this was the most important game of the competition. It would have been the first time since India lifted the title in 1975 that it had a shot at reaching the last four.

That was not to be as India bowed out with a 1-2 loss to Netherlands in the quarterfinal at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Thursday. It was always expected to be close but India would rue the chances it got and wasted.

Dilpreet Singh and Akashdeep Singh missed sitters, India failed to earn many penalty corners and held onto the ball for too long. The team did everything the coach had warned against. Like it happened against Malaysia in the Asian Games, the players chose the worst possible game to lose their focus and make errors.

AS IT HAPPENED: India 1 - 2 Netherlands

Despite all this, India still took the lead, Akashdeep Singh shooting in a rebound after Harmanpreet Singh's flick was saved. With two seconds to go in the quarter, Holland got the equaliser when India let in the softest of goals – Thierry Brinkman managing a deflection despite his stick being shielded by an Indian defender.

The end-to-end hockey game saw both sides packing their defences but also leaving enough open space to attack and create opportunities. There was little to separate the sides for a large part of the game, both teams doing enough to stay within a goal but failing to get the final shot.

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Thierry Brinkman celebrates after scoring the equaliser against India.   -  Getty Images

 

With their impeccable control on the move and accuracy in short passes, the Dutch kept the crowd silent. The plan was simple – break India’s runs, stretch the defence and avoid aerial balls, preferring short, sharp moves and negate the presence of 18,000 people at the venue.

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It worked. The crowd, which was touted as the 12th man by Harendra, packed the stands but was placid and did little to raise the team’s energy. Once Mink van der Weerden converted a penalty corner in the 50th minute to put Netherlands up, India looked like it lost the fight and the game, going into its shell.

Despite all the hard work from the Indian defence, specially by Surender Kumar and Harmanpreet Singh and Manrpeet Singh – the Indian captain was indefatigable in his efforts – the team paid the price for its forwards’ profligacy.

– Belgium stuns Germany –

The other game of the day was a contrast with Belgium completing the semifinal line-up with a 2-1 win against Germany, a scoreline that might indicate a close game but was all about Belgium creating chances and wasting them.

The Belgians played an open, attacking game, had at least four clear open chances and earned nine penalty corners – but were thwarted repeatedly by Walter Tobias under the bar.

In fact, if not for the goalkeeper, Belgium would have run away with the game in the first half itself despite Germany taking an early lead.

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Tom Boon celebrates after putting Belgium in the lead.   -  Getty Images

 

An unmarked Dieter Linnekogel’s shot through Vincent Vanasch’s legs was more of a defensive lapse than any brilliance on the part of Germany, which was strangely defensive, unorganised and saw most of its shots go off-target.

India’s best finish before this was 5th spot at the 1994 edition. But as per tournament rules, Germany picked up more points in the pool stage and that would put it above India, which finishes 6th.

The results (quarterfinals): Belgium 2 (Tom Boon, Alexander Hendrickx) bt Germany 1 (Dieter Linnekogel); Netherlands 2 (Thierry Brinkman, Mink van der Weerden) bt India 1 (Akashdeep Singh).