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India crash out after Japan thrashing

Coach Sukhwinder Singh’s comments on the eve of the last-16 match that his team would fight till the end and that they "wouldn't lose respect in defeat", fell on its face as India — who made it to the knock-out stage for the first time since 1982 — came unstuck against a marauding Japan, losing 0-5 on Tuesday. Ajai Masand reports.

india Updated: Nov 17, 2010 01:53 IST
Ajai Masand

It took 28 years for India to redeem themselves in the Asian Games. And it took just 17 minutes to fritter it all away. Coach Sukhwinder Singh’s comments on the eve of the last-16 match that his team would fight till the end and that they "wouldn't lose respect in defeat", fell on its face as India — who made it to the knock-out stage for the first time since 1982 — came unstuck against a marauding Japan, losing 0-5 on Tuesday.

The old Chinese political rivalry with Japan gave India some unexpected supporters, but Singh’s boys simply not up to the task. The initial exuberance — when Jibon Singh and Manish Maithani made a couple of half-hearted forays into the Japanese territory from the left — apart, India could never test the rival back-line, even as goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh was kept more than busy by the ever-threatening Yamazaki Ryohei and Nagai Kensuke.

That initial domination signalled its wane when, in the 15th minute, Yamazaki’s shot hit the horizontal. Two minutes later, the barrage started and in no time, were India left reeling. Three goals in the next 28 minutes sealed India’s fate and it was a familiar story thereafter.

The 8000-strong crowd, realising the futility of cheering for India, fell silent and in the second half, switched allegiance. Japan may be their rival, but they were now appreciating the quality on display. Nagai Kensuke’s brace and goals from Yamazaki Ryohei, Yamamura Kazuya and Mizunuma Kota outwitted the Indian defence.

Japan's fifth goal, scored by Kota in the 63rd minute, highlighted the haplessness of this experimental Indian side, weakened further by senior India coach Bob Houghton’s decision not to spare campers — bound for the Asian Cup in Doha in 2011 — for the Asian Games. Kota’s pile-driver, hit from outside the box went like a missile without the Indian defenders even getting a clue about its trajectory.

"We lost to a speedier side. Their quality of passes, speed and finishing was simply superb. The boys tried their best. But this is not the best team to come to the Games. Some 7-8 eligible players could not be part of the team. I do not want to comment why they are not here but their presence would certainly have helped," said Singh, indirectly pointing at Houghton's questionable policies.

"Besides, the friendly against China before the start of the football competition did not materialise. We desperately wanted to play China, Japan or Korea before starting our campaign. Moreover, we were also not expecting Japan in the last-16. But when we came to know, we had time for only a couple of sessions to practice, which is not enough."

"Hopefully, the team will take home quite a few positives from this defeat," Sukhwinder said.