Lacklustre India humiliated by New Zealand in hockey
Another last minute goal sunk India's hopes of an Olympic medal in men's hockey when the eight-time gold-medallists suffered a humiliating 1-2 loss against unfancied New Zealand in a Pool B match on Saturday.
India, needing to win the match to retain their slim chances for a semi-final berth, suffered the reverse after Hayden Shaw scored the winner off a penalty corner amidst much drama in the 70th minute.
The other scorer for New Zealand was Phillip Burrows (36th minute) while veteran Dhanraj Pillay scored the lone goal for India in the 62nd minute.
This was India's third loss in four matches and even a win in their last match against Argentina will not be enough as they would lag behind holders Holland and Australia in the points tally.
Holland are now on nine points from three games and Australia on seven from three. Even a win against Argentina will take India's points tally to only six.
India, who came to Athens after months of training in foreign institutes — including in the United States — under the guidance of two foreign coaches, were hardly a force in the tournament as they showed lack of application and a fighting spirit in all the matches.
Controversies in the run-up to the mega event including in the team selection and appointment of foreign coaches — Gerhard Rach and Oliver Kurtz — seemed to have its bearing on the performance of the side, which struggled in all the four matches it played in the tournament.
The team's sorry display in the earlier games — against the Netherlands, South Africa and Australia, continued against the lowly New Zealand, who recorded their second upset in the competition.
The strategies of foreign experts and the experience of star players did not come to the rescue of the Asian giants. They hardly posed any threat to side from Down Under, who were a lot more determined and focussed than their counterparts.
A listless display in the first half by India saw New Zealand dominating for most part and even coming close to taking the lead in the 35th minute when they earned the first penalty corner of the match.
But a poor push helped the Indians go to the half-time without conceding a goal.
On resumption, India suffered the first blow when Burrows capitalised on a defensive lapse. Captain Simon Towns found space on the right and then relayed the ball to a free Burrows in the circle whose deflection beat goal-keeper Adrian D'Souza.