FIH Hockey World League Final: Home support key for India in semis vs Argentina
India, and semifinal opponents Argentina, have had similar journey so far in the FIH Hockey World League Final (HWLF) -- both teams drew one game, lost two matches in the league phase, but still notched up thrilling wins in the quarterfinalsother sports Updated: Dec 08, 2017 17:48 IST
Belgium’s Vincent Vanasch, one of the best goalkeepers in the world, feels support from the home crowd helped Indian hockey team beat his side in their quarterfinals of the FIH Hockey World League Final (HWLF) on Wednesday.
“There were 12 players on the ground, including the crowd and it really made a big difference in the game,” he had said of the raucous 10,000-strong crowd.
When India play Rio Olympic champions Argentina in the semifinal on Friday, home support will again be the key for them.
The South Americans scored a thrilling 3-2 win over world No. 7 England in the quarterfinal on Thursday. In the other quarterfinal of the day, world No 5 Germany brushed aside European champions the Netherlands 3-3 (4-3) in penalty shootout.
So far the journey of both India and Argentina has been similar. Both the teams drew one game, lost two matches in the league phase, but still notched up thrilling wins in the quarter-finals.
So it’s going to be an even contest although hosts and eight-time Olympic champions India hold an upper hand against rivals when it comes to past record. Out of 46 meetings so far, India have won 26 times, drawn four and lost 16 matches.
“Yes, it’s altogether a different game for us as now there is no chance of any mistake,” said India’s chief coach Sjoerd Marijne on the eve of the match. “Playing before our own people would be an added advantage. But above all, we need to keep our winning momentum going and that is possible only through yet another perfect show.
“I am really happy with the performance of the side so far. Our defending was better. The difference was that we created chances and scored off penalty corners. Against Germany, England and Australia (in league phase) we had the same number of shots at goal and more PCs,” he said. “But if you don’t score, things look bad. We knew we had to score. We got four penalty corners against Belgium and scored two. When we had the ball, we were more calm and composed.”
Other than the penalty corner conversions, a good showing by their defence too made a big difference on Wednesday. Their interception of the ball was extraordinary, but the coach believes that side needs to avoid small lapses in defence.
Terming Argentina a good side, he said, “There is no easy opponent. Argentina are very structured. They are doing good with their chances. We beat them in a practice match but that was after they travelled for three days. For us, it’s important to focus on ourselves. The PCs we gave away were too easy. We need to improve in our defence.”
Argentina’s ace drag-flicker Gonzalo Peillat accepted that handling India’s ability to counter-attack quickly would be the biggest concern on Friday. “Being the hosts they are a dangerous side, and we have to be very careful as India can surprise with their ability to counter-attack.”
On Thursday, Lucas Vila (21st), Matias Paredes (29th) and Juan Gilardi (34th) scored for Argentina, whereas David Condon (29th) and Adam Dixon (60th) shared two goals between them for England.
In the other quarterfinal, Mirco Pruijser scored two goals, whereas Bjorn Kellerman had the third goal for the Netherlands, whereas Julius Meyer, Florian Fuchs and Constatin Staib netted for the Germany in regulation time.
Friday: India vs Argentina (7.30 p.m).
Saturday: Australia vs Germany (7.30 p.m).