Bhubaneswar: Another forgettable day for India at the Hockey World League (HWL) Final in Bhubaneswar saw coach Sjoerd Marijne’s boys being almost toyed by Germany, who scored two goals and then sat back in defence to protect those in a dominating victory in the last match of Pool B.
The 2-0 win helped the Germans top the pool with seven points, while India’s solitary point kept them at the bottom with a draw and two defeats. Thanks to the tournament format, the hosts will still play the quarterfinals against the top-ranked team from Pool A, which is most likely to be Belgium.
England finished second in Pool B with four points and Australia No. 3 with three points. The final standings in Pool A will be known after the last round of matches on Tuesday.
Germany scored in the 17th and 20th minute of the match through skipper Martin Haner’s penalty corner and Mats Grambusch’s field goal.
India earned four penalty corners but Rupinder Pal Singh and Harmanpreet Singh failed to be on the mark on any of those.
But it was Germany’s tight man-marking and possession play that foiled India’s counter-attacking strategy.
The first quarter may have ended goal-less but the Germans enjoyed almost 70 per cent of ball possession that tested the Indian midfield and defence.
The resilience of India’s backline gave way when Germany earned their first penalty corner and Haner made no mistake to disturb the net beating Akash Chikte.
Four minutes later, in the 20th, Grambusch benefitted from sleepy Indian defence and a deflection off Indian stick to provide his team the cushion.
The Germans evidently worked out India’s game that revolved around counter-attacks and captain Manpreet Singh admitted it after the game.
“We have speedy forwards. So we focus on defence and then try to catch the opponents on counter-attacks,” he said.
“We tried to be aggressive and play attacking hockey to cut their lead. But there were a lot of unforced errors, a lot of missing,” Manpreet added.
Coach Marijne agreed with Manpreet.
“We lost the ball too many times. Germany overall played extremely disciplined hockey with a lot of ball possession. We had more circle penetrations, more PCs (four against two) but we have to convert our chances.
“I was happy with second half. We played really nice, created opportunities.”
Mandeep Singh received a great pass from Akashdeep in the 22nd minute and had just the goalkeeper to beat from the right top corner but his shot was deflected for a long corner. Akashdeep got a chance very next minute, attempted a reverse hit but was off target.
If anything, Belgium look in better attacking form than Germany, and the Rio Olympics runners-up won’t let India’s mistakes go unpunished.
But Marijne was hopeful.
“We will do better in the next match.
“If you want to win tournaments, you have to beat every team. We respect Belgium a lot but here everybody can beat everyone. So why can’t we beat Belgium,” he reckoned.
India are playing the tournament by virtue of being hosts and are in the quarterfinals only because of the format. It’s high time that they now ‘win’ a spot in the semis.