Indian women’s hockey coach CR Kumar admitted that conceding an early goal as early as in the fifth minute put the team under pressure against South Africa in the final of the 2012 London Olympics qualifier at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium in New Delhi on Saturday.
“We were completely unlucky. In my opinion in the past we had played much better than South Africa in the past. Today an early goal put the pressure on the team. The pressure of playing in front of the home crowd also did them in,” said Kumar, after India lost 1-3 in the final and their 2012 London dreams went up in smoke.
A defensive blunder from India gave South Africa the lead as early as in the 4th minute through Shelly Russell. Ace-drag flicker Piete Coetzee (30th) converted a penalty corner while skipper Marsha Marescia (53rd) deflected an indirect penalty corner after had given South Africa the lead as early as in. India pulled one back in the 57th minute through Jaspreet Kaur from a penalty corner.
Kumar was surprised that the girls failed to handle the pressure.
“There performance was quite surprising. They didn’t play to their potential. But I think the team still can go a long way from here,” said Kumar.
Asked what was the road ahead for the Indian team, Kumar said: “We have to sit down and plan with Sports Authority of India (SAI) a road map for the team. We have to arrange for Test matches against New Zealand and other European team.”
Kumar said the girls have to realise what it takes to play in the Olympics.
“The realisation is very important. There is no dearth of talent, but our elite pool is very small. We need to have a solid grass roots programme so that the players are strong and intelligent by the time they make it to the senior team,” he said.