You need a certain type of cleverness besides hard work and luck to win a match. This involves intelligence in decision making, ability to pick the right moment and player to make the final pass and choose the right time to take the shot at goal.
On Saturday, the Indian team’s high performance director and chief coach Roelant Oltmans admitted that his boys need to develop such cleverness if they are to win titles in top FIH events.
These weaknesses were exposed by Belgium when they defeated the hosts by a solitary goal in a semifinal match of the Hero Hockey World League Finals on Saturday.
The Red Lions rode on an early soft goal to reach the final of a major event for the first time. On Sunday, they take on World No 1 and World Cup winners Australia and will have a chance to avenge their defeat to the Kookaburras in the league phase. India, on the other hand, will take on The Netherlands for the bronze medal earlier in the day.
India failed to cross the last-four stage once more in a major FIH event and had themselves to blame. They got off to a slow start, conceded a soft goal and failed to recover. They launched a number of attacks but could not earn a single penalty corner.
They landed on the back foot in the fifth minute when Jerome Truyens capitalised on a defensive lapse to put Cedric Charlier through and the forward shot the ball home through goalkeeper PR Sreejesh’s legs. Sreejesh had suffered a hit on his thigh while warming up and that seemed to dull his reflexes a bit.
The Indians got going after the change of ends and made some well-coordinated attacks but were found lacking in conversion as they could not make the right final pass to open up the Belgian defence. Their forwards looked clueless inside the final third.
Akashdeep missed a superb chance in the 37th minute off a good pass by SV Sunil, while Ramandeep, Talwinder Singh and Sunil himself failed to capitalise on some good opportunities to equalise.
They could not capitalise on two extra attacking players in the final five minutes after Oltmans pulled out the goalkeeper with Belgium one man short due to a yellow card to Tanguy Cosyns.
Luck too deserted the hosts as the umpires did not rule in their favour on a couple of close penalty corner shouts.
“I am not happy with the overall performance but satisfied as the boys reached the semifinal. There are still some areas that need work and we have around eight months to work on those,” Oltmans said after the match.