Indian team out of Hockey World Cup 2023, know the main reason behind the defeat
Bhubaneswar. India’s dismal campaign at the FIH Men’s World Cup has been repeatedly criticized by head coach Graham Reid for the team’s lack of consistency and failure to capitalize on opportunities. These words of the veteran coach and former Australia international Reid point to the struggles his players are facing in the ongoing World Cup. Such is the situation when 12 members of this team were part of the team that created history by winning the bronze medal in the Tokyo Olympics.
For a team that was aiming to finish on the podium for the first time since the gold medal in 1975, to be knocked out of the tournament before the quarter-finals is a pathetic performance. The team deserved to make it to at least the quarter-finals, if not the semi-finals. But who would have thought that the world number 6 team would end up losing in a penalty shoot-out against world number 12 New Zealand in a crossover tie despite having a two-goal lead on two occasions.
Crores of rupees were spent on the team’s training, exposure tours and salaries of the support staff and given this, the team was expected to perform better. This is India’s fourth worst performance in World Cup history. The hosts can no longer achieve better than ninth place in the tournament. The team is scheduled to take on Japan in the classification match on January 26 at Rourkela. India is among the four teams that have participated in all 15 World Cups so far. The team has finished worse than ninth place on four occasions.
India ranked 12th in 1986 and then 10th in 1990, 2002 and 2006. The team also achieved ninth place in 1998 and 2014. In the last tournament, the Indian team had finished sixth after losing to the Netherlands in the quarter-finals. Reid himself said in the press conference on Sunday that there were many reasons for his early exit from the tournament. The two main reasons for this are the lack of success in converting penalty corners and the lack of finishing from the front line.
Apart from this, there was also a lack of consistency in the performance of the defense line. India’s failure in penalty corners can be gauged from the fact that the team could score only five goals from 26 penalty corners in four matches. Not only this, only two of these goals came on direct drag flicks, which were scored by captain Harmanpreet Singh against Wales and Varun Kumar against New Zealand. The other three goals came off rebounds from Amit Rohidas, Shamsher Singh and Sukhjit Singh. For India, Harmanpreet made the most of the penalty corner attempts but managed only two goals.
Lack of variation in penalty corners and over-reliance on Harmanpreet cost India dearly. Apart from this, there was also a lack of consistency in both attack and defence, which was also pointed out by Reid. India’s defense line-up performed well in the opening two matches against Spain and England and there were no goals conceded in these two matches against the team. India, however, conceded two goals against tournament debutants World No. 14 Wales and then conceded three goals to New Zealand.
India were leading 2-0 and then 3-1 against New Zealand but the match was tied 3-3 after regular time. New Zealand then won 5–4 in sudden death. Rupinder Pal Singh and Birender Lakra also retired after Tokyo and were replaced in the World Cup squad by the inexperienced Jarmanpreet Singh and Neelam Sanjeep Sess. Former captain Manpreet Singh, who will turn 31 in June, was also out of form. When asked whether this was the best team available, Reid declined to comment, saying that he would not say anything about it as there are still two classification matches left.
Apart from this, India also had to bear the brunt of the lack of finishing. The team at times failed to convert good moves into goals. Against New Zealand too, India dominated but despite creating a lot of moves, the team failed to score many goals. Midfielder Hardik Singh also missed the last two matches due to a hamstring strain, which cost the team. He was injured in the second pool match against England.