Lacklustre India brace up for Netherlands challenge

Lacklustre India brace up for Netherlands challenge

As expected the Indian men’s hockey team has flattered to deceive so far in the FIH Champion’s Trophy with the familiar chinks in their armour exposed painfully, first by Germany and then ruthlessly by Argentina.

Riding high on the back of the Asian Games gold they won in October after a gap of 16 years and then enjoying a rare ‘Test’ series triumph over Australia in their backyard last month, the Indians came into this tournament with plenty of confidence.

However, all that euphoria has evaporated in a span of two encounters, thanks to their blow-hot blow-cold performances. And, things are not going to be easy when they lock horns against a rampaging Netherlands in the final Pool B game at the Kalinga Stadium here on Tuesday.

Thanks to the quirky format of the tournament where all four teams from the pool qualify for the knock-out quarterfinals with the round-robin matches acting purely as a tool to decide the seedings, the Indian team has one final chance to sort out their problems before business starts to pick where one error could seal their fate.

While some teams have problems with the either the defence or the attack, the Indian team has issues aplenty in both areas with only goalkeeper PR Sreejesh being the stand-out performer.

If not for Sreejesh the Indians would have suffered a battering against Germany, the custodian’s brilliant man-of-the-match performance limiting the damage to just one goal which came in the final minute of the game.

The quintet of Ramandeep Singh, Akashdeep Singh, Nikkin Thimmaiah, Lalit Upadhyay and SK Uthappa have been unable to make an impression upfront. While they’ve been able to create moves, their tactic to whip a cross in from around the 25-yard line has come a cropper time and again with the ploy bearing fruit only after 90 minutes on the pitch.

Despite that, they’ve hardly shown the wisdom to change. The age-old method of penetration into the ‘D’ has been completely lost in the minds of the strikers, who barely appear confident of dribbling into the scoring circle.

The less said about the defence the better. Somehow they keep committing the same errors time and again and it’s quite bizarre how a multitude of coaches have not being able to paper that crack. The Netherlands have been in fantastic form here despite playing with three debutantes and one player with just a one match behind him.

The understanding amongst the strikers has been brilliant while the communication between the defence and attack has been top-notch with indications very clear that they are one of the favourites for the title.

DH News Service
Tuesday’s matches: 12.00 pm: Argentina vs Germany; 2.00 pm: England vs Belgium; 5.30 pm: Australia vs Pakistan; 7.30 pm: Netherlands vs India.

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