It all boils down to one match now. The format is such that even a team that has struggled so far in the Hero Hockey World League Final can still maintain hopes of winning the title.
For them, the real tournament starts in the quarterfinals as winning one match put them in contention for a medal.
India have failed to win a single match in the Hero Hockey World League Final in Raipur so far. Their forwards have been inconsistent, error-prone and they seem to have ditched their internal GPS system at the team hotel. They have committed basic mistakes in trapping and passing too and have manufactured only three penalty corners in three matches despite there being three penalty corner experts in VR Raghunath, Rupinder Pal Singh and Jasjit Singh Kular in the team.
But all that would not matter and even atoned if they beat Great Britain in Thursday’s all-important quarterfinal.
There have been concerns in some sections of hockey stakeholders of performance in the preliminary league turning to nought because of introduction of the knockout quarterfinal stage. Teams can win any number of matches in the round robin pool but what matters in the end is the performance in the knockout stage. Such a thing happened at the Champions Trophy in Bhubaneswar last year and the Indian fans would be hoping that such an upset takes place on Thursday when the hosts take on Pool A toppers Great Britain.
While India have struggled in the tournament thus far, Great Britain looks like the team to beat by the way they demolished World Cup winners Australia in a Pool A match.
Thus Roelant Oltmans boys will have to pull themselves up by the straps of their boot laces if they have to get past the British.
“We have analyses their match against Belgium yesterday and have devised our strategy accordingly. One thing is that they have a tendency to commit mistakes if pressed. We will try and create enough pressure on them. Penalty corners is our strength and we would try and create more and score in the quarterfinal,” said Oltmans on Wednesday.
Though his forwards have been erratic, Oltmans can take heart from his defenders who have kept strong teams like Germany and Netherlands quiet for long periods.
However, it would be an uphill task for India as they had lost 1-5 to Great Britain when they last played them in the HWL semifinals in Antwerp in June this year.
Great Britain coach Bobby Crutchley was cautious in his assessment of India.
“India have put up a mixed show so far. I haven’t seen them enough as I was focussed on my group. But they played well against Germany but did not have good games against Holland and Argentina, as per the results. But then all teams are expected to raise their standards in the quarterfinals and I am sure India will be tough as well,” said Crutchley.
“Even we have played mixed hockey so far. We weren’t that good in the game against Belgium so we have to improve on a few areas. We have a few young players. For them to play against a strong side like India at their home will be a tough challenge but a invaluable experience. The main tournament starts now for all teams.
Oltmans too would hope that it would be a tough match and his boys will finally come good in the tournament.