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Hockey World Cup: Surender Kumar wary of Belgium attack

Avoiding late goals is one of areas Indian team has worked on and it will be put to test against strong teams like Belgium on Sunday.

tennis Updated: Dec 01, 2018 16:59 IST
Saurabh Duggal
Saurabh Duggal
Hockey World Cup,Hockey,Surender Kumar
Surender Kumar is wary of Belgium attack and what they can do. (Getty Images)

If there is one area that has haunted the Indian team over the years, it is conceding late goals. There have been several occasions where the Indian team has let slip the advantage and buckled under pressure in dying minutes of a match.

The most recent example is loss to Malaysia in the semi-finals at the Jakarta Asian Games. Rahim Muhammad Razie’s 59th minute strike leveled the scores and eventually Malaysia pulled off a dramatic upset in the shootout dashing India’s hopes of a direct qualifying berth for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Avoiding late goals is one of areas Indian team has worked on and it will be put to test against strong teams like Belgium on Sunday. “The match against Belgium is very important for us in the group stage. The result of the tie will decide whether India will be going directly to quarterfinals or play crossovers,” said defender Surender Kumar.

“Belgium plays more of an attacking hockey, so the defenders will have an important role to play,” said Surender, one of the most trusted defenders in the side with over 100 international caps.

“None of us in the defence line is taking any pressure, but if we take more responsibility, it will help us in generating more opportunities for a counter attack and this will automatically push Belgium on the defensive,” he said.

The debacle at Asian Games is still fresh in mind but Surender insisted the team has moved ahead. “What happened in Jakarta shouldn’t have happened. But it is part and parcel of the game. So, when we came from the Asian Games, the coaches had a meeting with the team and the first thing we were told was to forget the Jakarta episode and concentrate on the World Cup. So, nobody in the team talks about Jakarta.”

“To be very honest, at times I try to recall it frame by frame, as being a defender I can work on fixing the gaps. It has been haunting me but in a positive way so that I can be more cautious in future,” says Surender, who was also part of the team in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

During the camps and training, the coach has specifically included drills to deal with the issue of conceding the last minute goal. “There is hardly any room for error for defenders, so we have been trained to play our natural game even in the pressure situations. During the practice matches in the camp, we often take out the goalkeeper in the last four-five minutes, so that we (defenders) can feel the pressure of being the last line of defence and work on holding the game in the tight situations,” says Surender.

“It’s a team game and we can only win when all the departments contribute their best with minimal of mistakes.”

First Published: Dec 01, 2018 16:58 IST