Unlike their formula of playing ‘simple hockey’, India chose to draw up strategy behind closed doors for their quarterfinal against Spain on Thursday in the hockey Junior World Cup for men.
The move was dictated by the outcome of India’s show against South Africa in the last league match, where the hosts struggled before winning 2-1.
As soon as the team arrived for the pre-match training at the Mohd Shahid Stadium on Wednesday, team manager and chief coach of the senior team Roelant Oltmans ordered the stadium to be evacuated.
The team wanted to try out options for scoring inside the circle as this was an issue against South Africa. Despite several openings in the rivals’ citadel, the Indians missed many goal-scoring chances.
During practice on Wednesday, it was clear the coaches had read the riot act to the players. The team tried out different combinations upfront because another indifferent show will end their hopes in the hockey junior World Cup for men.
India’s grudge game vs Spain
When Harjeet Singh and Co begin battle against Spain, who denied India bronze at Rotterdam in 2005, they will have the psychological edge. Last month, they had defeated Spain at the Four Nations Tournament in Valencia twice.
The crowd behind them, Harendra Singh’s boys will focus on sticking to the basics.
Though they ended the pool stage with an all-win record, India found the going tough against South Africa, which almost negated the pressure created by the forwards with man-to-man marking in the second half.
Harendra and Harjeet admitted the team played to potential for just 25 minutes in the game.
“We couldn’t play to our potential after the first 15 minutes. In fact, we didn’t play simple hockey which we were supposed to. We need to rectify our mistakes in the knockout games,” Harjeet had said after the match.
Attack key for India
Whatever strategy they come up with on Thursday, the team needs to iron out the attack, which has been unable to get into the groove. India were rusty in the opening match against Canada, profligate against England and out of sorts against South Africa.
With Spain looking dangerous, nothing but the best will be sufficient.
Before India begin their mission under lights on Thursday, Belgium play Argentina, defending champions Germany meet England and Australia take on The Netherlands in other quarterfinals.