India’s promising World Cup campaign ends in heartbreak
Sensing an imminent loss for India, the 16,000 spectators who turned up on Sunday evening had already started heading towards the exit gates when Shamsher Singh missed the final chance in the shootout, sending New Zealand to the hockey World Cup quarter-finals and bringing India’s campaign to a heartbreaking end
Sensing an imminent loss for India, the 16,000 spectators who turned up on Sunday evening had already started heading towards the exit gates when Shamsher Singh missed the final chance in the shootout, sending New Zealand to the hockey World Cup quarter-finals and bringing India’s campaign to a heartbreaking end.
Goalkeeper PR Sreejesh’s three successive saves made the people stop at the gates for a couple of minutes, but eventually they did not have to return to their seats as India choked in sudden death, losing 3-3 (4-5) in the crossovers to a team ranked six spots below them and comprising players who had only two-and-a-half weeks of preparation – in comparison to India’s year-long camp – before flying to Odisha for the World Cup.
This was a golden opportunity for Harmanpreet Singh’s boys to build on the momentous success achieved a year and a half back in Tokyo when the team made it to the Olympic podium for the first time in 41 years, but the team fell well short of expectations.
India started well in Rourkela, defeating Spain 2-0 and drawing 0-0 against England in a high-octane clash. After scraping past Wales 4-2 – a team that had to pay out of their pockets and resort to crowdfunding to reach India for the World Cup – India suffered a disastrous end by not even reaching the quarter-finals, going down in the last-12 stage.
The result will hurt them more than the 2018 quarter-final exit when they lost 1-2 to eventual finalists Netherlands in a closely fought contest.
Chief coach Graham Reid explained the reasons for the defeat.
“Our penalty corner conversion (was one of the reasons). We had a lot of circle penetrations but couldn’t convert them enough. We scored three goals which would have been enough. In defence we needed to be in front a bit more and a bit tighter,” said the Australian, who joined the Indian set-up in April 2019.
“Penalty corner conversion is a factor but not the only one (for the loss). We created enough to win. The problem was most times we won the ball, we gave it back. That was the telling factor how they got their third goal. After winning the ball (possession), we gave them opportunities and at this level you can’t do that.”
India looked to have the match in the bag while leading 2-0 in the second quarter and then 3-1 in the third but a complacent defence took the advantage for granted to concede two goals in a span of six minutes which levelled the scores 3-3.
A shootout is always a lottery and the Black Sticks were ahead 3-2 but Sreejesh made three remarkable saves to put the hosts back on level terms, pushing the contest into sudden death.