India lost momentum after matching defending champions Netherlands move for move in the first half to go down 1-3 in their last league match at the Hero Hockey World League at Raipur on Monday.
Mink van der Weerden (30th minute), Mirco Pruijser (43th minute) and Roel Bovendeert (54th minute) for Netherlands while Chinglensana Singh Kangujam scored the lone consolation for India as the hosts finished at the bottom of the pool with just one point from the draw against Germany.
It was not that India played poorly -- like they did that against Argentina in their opening match. They were as good as against Germany but committed more errors. They created a number of chances but mistakes in the final moments made their efforts ineffective.
The hosts started superbly as they created a number of chances in the first quarter. With Ramandeep and SV Sunil in the forward line, they had the pace to fox the Dutch in the final third. But both forwards also made mistakes and India could not capitalise on their efforts.
Though the Dutch played better, India still matched them in the second period and held their own through the momentum was surely shifting. Holding Netherlands goalless in the first half of the game, that too without conceding a single penalty corner, was a creditable performance and India only had to maintain that level.
However, that is what they failed to do. Birendra Lakra committed the first serious mistake in defense when he failed to trap the ball cleanly in the circle and conceded a penalty corner which was converted by van der Weerden. They made it 2-0 just before the end of the second quarter with India a man down.
India fought back in the final quarter and managed to reduce the margin off their only penalty corner of the match when Chinglensana reverse hit into the goal after a defender blocked Rupinderpal Singh’s drag flick.
They pressed ahead again searching for the equaliser but the Dutch sealed the issue when Billy Bakker made a superb run down the right flank and found Bovendeert in the circle, who blasted it into the roof of the goal.
It all boils down to basics of the game. You stick to the right basics, you reap the rewards.
Netherlands did that on Monday while hosts India committed mistakes in basic elements of the game like trapping the ball, maintaining team structure and making the correct final pass.
These basics are taught at the elementary level and faults can’t be rectified at international level . India’s high performance director and chief coach Roelant Oltmans alluded to these fault lines after the match.
“In our circle penetrations, you should get more out of it. One of the things is the final pass or the final decision needs to improve. If you enter the circle at very, very high speed and you don’t take the time to give the right final player (then it is of no use).
“If you see how Holland scored their last goal, it was the right final pass (which made it possible). That is one of the things when you talk about development where you can’t start learning at a certain level. It’s difficult to de-learn things,” he added.