“I’m not a hockey fan but my son saw India win bronze in Tokyo Olympics and started playing the game. We came to see India win but came back very disappointed,” said a dejected Prasanto Mohanty, India. His son Pradeep in his jersey and with the tricolor painted on his cheek standing by him, said.
The Mohanty family, like 16,000 others at the Kalinga Stadium, saw India’s World Cup campaign fail. In Sunday’s crossover clash, the world No. 6 side were dismantled by New Zealand, a team whose regular players come together only a few times a year.
But it was also the effect of the Tokyo Olympics. A bronze medal raised hopes in 41 years of preparation. This World Cup is the first since the 1982 Mumbai edition when India went as Olympic medallists.
That added to the pressure, and India wilted after going in as favorites for the podium. “Let alone the crossover, India didn’t look in shape even in the pool stages. When you play a tournament, you have to improve every time (game), not stay at the same level,” the duo said. Said Olympic and World Cup title winning Dutch legend Jack Brinkman.
India’s 2021 Olympics bronze medal came in front of an almost empty stand at the Oi Hockey Stadium in Tokyo. By contrast, in packed stadiums — 21,800 in Rourkela and 16,000 in Bhubaneswar — scores of media personnel asking tough questions, poor penalty corner (PC) efforts, the burden of winning an Olympic medal all but overwhelming the athletes. are
Graham Reid’s side had a golden opportunity to build on in Tokyo. But since the 1975 victory in Kuala Lumpur, India has been waiting for a World Cup medal. “I’m sure pressure and expectations come into the mix. But I don’t think it’s the only thing. We made mistakes that we don’t normally make. We need to analyse, talk and come up with solutions.” Australia’s coach said.
The main reason for India’s defeat was a poor change of PC. Although they started with a 2-0 win against Spain, they missed several open chances. The forward line collapsed when it came to converting chances. Upon their exit, India had the most penetrations into the circle (94), but of their 49 shots on goal in four games, only nine went in.
“We had a lot of perimeters but didn’t convert. Against New Zealand we also scored three goals which would normally have been enough. Defensively, we probably needed to be a bit more forward and a bit tighter,” Reid said. said
India got off to a poor start in Tokyo. They outclassed New Zealand and lost 1–7 to Australia before the players got used to the conditions. He then went on to win back-to-back victories over Spain, Olympic champions Argentina, Asian Games champions Japan and Great Britain. Groups of six teams in Tokyo helped India bounce back. Odisha consisted of groups of four teams with only the toppers directly qualifying for the quarterfinals.
A major concern was the poor PC conversion. Only five of the 27 PCs were scored, a conversion rate of 18.51%. India’s spearhead, captain and PC specialist Harmanpreet Singh scored once in four matches. The absence of a world-class drag flickr like Rupinder Pal Singh — he retired after Tokyo — hurt as other flickers Amit Rohidas, Neelam Sanjeep X and Varun Kumar are largely one-dimensional.
A team needs a number of world-class drag flickers to win tournaments in modern hockey. Belgium have four — Alexander Hendricks, Tanguy Cousins, Tom Boon and Loic Loipart. Australia have Blake Gowers and Jeremy Hayward. Multiple flickers give pushers more options and confuse early rushers.
His triple role – captaincy, leading the defense and executing the PCs – put Harmanpreet under pressure. “I know everyone is talking about me not scoring enough. I wanted too. I tried, but it didn’t happen. You don’t think when you go on the field. You’re not going to score, you go in thinking you’re going to,” the top scorer (18) in the 2021-22 Pro League looked helpless.
A failure in man-to-man marking, defensive lapses, Manpreet Singh’s lack of presence as a playmaker and his leadership of the midfield not using both flanks during attacks, few aerial balls used to scatter the defence, Regular loss of possession and not exerting too much pressure. The mistakes India made in the last group match against Wales and New Zealand. “We let ourselves down, it became difficult to throw the ball away. Every time we won the ball, we gave it back. That was the telling factor. You can’t do that at this level.
The players selected for the shoot-out will be discussed. Reid believes in youth – he picked young Shamsher Singh for the Olympics over Akashdeep Singh. That approach returned on Sunday. Instead of veterans Manpreet, Akashdeep and Mandeep Singh, Reed opted for youngsters like Abhishek, Shamsher and Sukhjeet Singh who were all but missed.
The most important thing at the international level is hockey, decided by shoot-out. In them, I was wondering what India was doing. Harmanpreet, the great player, the best player in the world, but what was she doing? They have to train for the shootout,” Brinkman said.
Although 13 of Tokyo’s 19 players were at the World Cup, India were likely to miss Sumit, Gurjant Singh, Dalpreet Singh and Simranjeet Singh, who scored twice in the bronze play-off against Germany in Tokyo. .
Hardik Singh got injured after the second game as the midfielder was India’s best player till then. Goalkeeper PR Sreejesh was injured in the crucial phase of the shootout. “Excuses don’t count. The differences at the top are small. I hope India will continue because they are on the right track. For example, the Dutch won their last World Cup in 1998, 25 years ago. Not so easy even though they have quality,” Brinkman said.