Australia hammered India 6-2 in the final game of the pool phase of the 10-nation Hockey World League (HWL) Semifinal at the Brasschaat Municipal Park on Sunday.
India's coach Paul van Ass said nerves and inability to handle the fast-paced attack of the World champions, who had slammed half a dozen goals against Pakistan (the result was 6-1) a few days ago, resulted in his side's capitulation.
"Frayed nerves and inability to cope with the high rhythm set by the Australians hurt us very badly at the start of the match," said van Ass.
Australia rode on a hat-trick by penalty corner shooter Chris Ciriello to complete an all-win record in Group A. India got the second spot in the pool with seven points from four matches.
Pakistan and France are the other teams to qualify for the quarterfinals from the five-team group.
Letting in two early goals, India were pushed back to defend their citadel against the speedy Australian strikers.
"We got caught in the high rhythm. We knew it could happen, but gave away too much and got hammered," said van Ass, adding that the Indians were okay after the first 15 minutes.
"We have to be realistic. After all, they are world No. 1 and we are No. 9 in the international rankings," said the coach, who recently took up the Indian assignment.
Van Ass is a former national coach from The Netherlands and replaced Australian Terry Walsh as India's chief coach.
His first tournament was the Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh two months ago.
Van Ass has the luxury of experimenting and teaching new strategies to his new wards as India had already qualified for the 2016 Olympic Games by virtue of winning the Asian Games — beating Pakistan — in Incheon last year.
Indian captain Sardar Singh, who set up the move that saw them score the last goal of the match against the run of play, said his strikers needed to capitalise on the openings that came their way.
"We got a few chances, but we've got to convert them. Australia they used their openings better," said Sardar.
Australia dominated the proceedings throughout the match. Apart from Ciriello, Jamie Dwyer, Aran Zalewski, and Kieran Govers scored one each. Birendra Lakra and Ramandeep Singh got onto the scoresheet for the Indians.
In the first quarter of the match, both the teams started at good pace, testing each other.
Australia got the first success in the 8th minute when Dwyer charged from the right and passed the ball to Zalewski, who smashed the ball toward the goal-box without giving any chance to Indian defenders.
In the 14th minute, Australia charged again. With Dwyer's brilliant shot, Australia scored their second goal to increase their lead.
In the 26th minute, Australia earned a penalty corner and Ciriello hit the shot toward the nets, but Sreejesh hit back the ball. Ciriello's rebound shot yielded results. Trailing by 0-3 by this time, India fought back harder and charged with more aggression.
In the third quarter, both the teams played with better strategies and new game-plans. In the 33rd minute, Australia managed to earn a penalty corner and Ciriello again took the shot. He hit straight into the goal box, beating the Indian defenders, and scoring the fourth goal for his team.
However in the next minute (34th), India earned a penalty corner and Jasjit Singh Kular took the shot. He smashed the ball hard but Aussie custodian hit back the ball towards the Indian pack. Defender Birendra Lakra received the ball and hit it with a reverse shot to score the first goal for his team.
In the 42nd minute, Australia scored their fifth goal via Govers, who standing in front of the goal-box, received the ball and sent it into the nets by beating Sreejesh.
The Australians continued with their quick counter-attacks and kept on creating chances to increase their lead. After two minutes (44th), the Aussies earned another penalty corner and once again, Ciriello converted it into his hat-trick goal, taking the score-line to 6-1.
In the fourth quarter, in the 51st minute with this brilliant team-work, the Indians reduced the margin to 2-6 with Ramandeep's goal.
The quarter-final round of the Hockey World League Semi-Final 2015 will start on June 30.