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Part 1: What went wrong (12/14/2018)
--Errol D’Cruz
Just one goal separated India from the Netherlands in the rousing World Cup quarterfinal clash at the Kalinga stadium.But, in hindsight, there was a plethora or reasons that made for a Dutch 2-1 victory over the host nation. And even more reasons, perhaps, why India failed to cross the last-eight hurdle much to the disappointment of their vast legion of fans that packed the stadium on Thursday night. undefined

Let’s face it. The young guns in the team, admirable as they’ve been in the tournament before the big one against the Dutch, failed to fire. The stage, it appeared, was too big and too profound. Dilpreet Singh and Nilakanta Sharma looked out of sorts and Simranjeet wasn’t brought into action often enough.

The forward line produced damp squib. Akashdeep may have scored from a penalty corner rebound but there was precious little he could do in the remainder of the match. undefined

As a matter of fact, what was glaring was what he couldn’t – convert a gilt-edged chance with only the goalkeeper to beat. Instead he blasted his tomahawk well over the bar. The less said of Mandeep the better and hero of the encounter against Canada, Lalit Upadhaya, was dismally off colour.

Hats off to the defence, though, and a stout-hearted performance at the centre of which Surender Kumar stood out brought him the player of the match award.

Varun Kumar had an exemplary first half and, along with Surender, displayed admirable composure to ward off many a Dutch threat that once again reflected in circle penetrations.

Aerial passes may be the pattern of the day, but one wonders whether the Indians overdid the tactic. With the forwards having a bad day in the office, the midfield could have been better utilized and

Simranjeet, for instance, would have been a vital cog with the tireless Manpreet Singh even though Hardik Singh, the ostensible replacement for Sardar Singh, had an erratic performance.

Ironically, it were defensive frailties that finally dealt India the killer blows. undefined

On the dot of first-quarter time, Mirco Pruijser’s snap hit from distance found the faintest of touches off Thierry Brinkman’s stick and entered the goal through the gap between Sreejesh and the post.

Then, with the shootout on the horizon, vice-captain Kangujam Chinglensana, who otherwise had an impressive tournament, and the veteran defender Birendra Lakra failed with a passage of action that enabled Seve van Ass to grab the ball and head towards the circle.

A penalty corner, which led to the match-winner ensued, after Chinglensana could only offer a crude challenge on van Ass.

The unforced errors in the match by India outnumbered those of the Dutch, who also seemed to suffer from nerves on the night.

But the Netherlands’ purposeful hockey won the day. Their crisp one-touch interplay always had the Indians under pressure. undefined

Tactically, the turning point appeared in the way Max Caldas’ team endeavored and succeeded to have more of the ball in the second half.

The Dutch were seen keeping control of the ball for significant periods of time. It enabled the three-time champions execute their plans at speed.
Photos: s2h photographer Rakesh

Despite being a wee-bit below par in their precision on the day, the three-time champions did enough to have the Indians back-pedalling in the third and fourth quarters.

The pressure told. Another Dutch victory over India in the World Cup followed. Importantly it was a win achieved even while not playing at their best. Something the Indians found beyond themselves.

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