The loss to Spain must have dashed the hopes of Indian fans, but our team has an opportunity to salvage their reputation when they take on England. Team morale will be at its lowest, but it is here that they can show some steel by hitting back with all they have got.
England are riding a high, exceeding all expectations with their all-win record, including wins against Australia and Pakistan, and will be a tough proposition. But the Indian team has nothing to lose. A win over England and then South Africa will help us battle for the fifth to eighth spots, which will also earn us a place in the Champions Trophy.
Having watched replays of our losses to Australia and Spain, I am sure England will come at us hard and fast and our defence needs to be rock steady if they hope to repel England’s forwards, who have set up high scoring wins for them. Much as my heart beats for India, I feel our chances are bleak unless Sandeep Singh does something special to justify his reputation as a leading penalty corner specialist. Every team is relying on their specialists to deliver the goods, but Sandeep managed to do so only against Pakistan. He needs to find his scoring form again.
I would like to see our players playing to their strengths and not getting carried away by the crowd’s reaction. I must mention here that the Indian team looked unprofessional in their approach and were guilty of playing to the gallery, adopting an individualistic rather than the team approach. Dribbling past a couple of players is attractive to the spectator, but losing the ball and setting up a counterattack for the opposition is detrimental.
We also need to learn how to compose ourselves in situations. Scoring a goal when down by three, does not warrant the kind of reaction that was on display against Spain. One has to be happy and show appreciation to the crowd but the players need to realise that they have to get on with the game because the team is still trailing.
The Pool is wide open and the Australia-Spain match should decide the group leaders. It will definitely be the match of the day and strategy will play a big role. Both teams are capable of playing extremely fast hockey and it will be interesting to see how they plan on breaking down the opposition. Pakistan too has an opportunity to get back to their winning ways when they take on whipping boys South Africa. It is vital that they too do well, along with India, if hockey is to flourish in Asia.