India relived the 2006 Doha Asian Games nightmare on Tuesday. China had denied India a place in the semifinal for the first time in the history of the quadrennial event. On Tuesday, India failed to breach the China wall once again as the dragon denied them a place in the last-four of another continental event - the Asia Cup.
So, disappointment was palpable in coach Harendra Singh's voice as he reacted to his team's disastrous performance at Kuantan, Malaysia, on Tuesday.
In a must-win situation, defending champions India squandered a two-goal advantage at half-time and were held to a 2-2 draw by China in their last Pool B match, crashing out of semifinal reckoning for the first time in the history of the Asia Cup.
“All the hard work of the last few months has gone waste. This is the first time in eight months the team has failed to fulfill the target it had set before the tournament,” said Harendra from Malaysia.
Skipper Sandeep Singh, who had struggled in the 2-3 defeat against Pakistan, came good towards the end of the first session, scoring off two penalty-corners in two minutes. But after change of ends, China wrested back the initiative, scoring through Lu Geng Hui (44th min) and Yu Yang (58th).
Harendra lambasted the midfielders and forwards for not falling back and helping the defense. “When you are leading 2-0, how can you lose momentum? This was the time to go on the attack and score more goals. But we failed to press our advantage,” said Harendra.
“The boys have to realise that if they are playing defensive, they have to defend as a single unit…it is not the job of only a few players,” he said.
Harendra blamed the mindset of Indian players who go defensive soon after taking a comfortable lead. “It is not about working on one particular area, the mindset of the players has to change,” Harendra said.
Asked about the reaction of foreign coach Jose Manuel Brasa to the defeat, Harendra said, “I have discussed a number of things with Brasa and he has agreed with my assessment.
“It's unfortunate that we come up with such a performance when Brasa has joined as a newest member of our family. But we can't lose hope. The boys have talent…we need to boost them. This is a minor setback, but we are capable of recovering,” said Harendra. The team will now play in the 5th to 7th place classification matches against Bangladesh and Japan. India will tour Europe for matches against Spain, England and Holland soon in its build-up for the 2010 World Cup.