4 in 4 and England are all set for a semifinal encounter, and with just one win India are out of the Hockey World Cup. Well one the hindsight no one expected India to reach the semis, with teams like Australia, Spain and England in the fray it was always going to be tough.
India were up against the European Champions England and they started of well, as they always do, the crowd cheered them on ,for opening ten minutes or so India were looking menacing, they played in the midfield better, they penetrated the 25 yards better, yet they could not finish. England on the other hand patiently build up the pressure and were rewarded with their first goal courtesy James Tindall in the 16th minute, not an exceptional goal by any means, opportunistic one might say, a Barry Middleton cross to Ben Hawes in to the 25 yard, Sandeep Singh’s casual approach gave enough time for Ben to turn and put in the first cross into the goal which was well deflected by an unmarked James Tindall, a fundamental mistake by Indian defence, loosing their markers. The first half finished of with no more fuss, except for two penalty corners to India. First one, a feeble attempt by Sandeep Singh didn’t even reach the goal tender and the second, by Diwakar Ram, good power with poor placement hitting the goaltender James Fair straight on the chest, both corners wasted.
England opened up in the second half with Skipper Barry Middleton leading from the front through some competent midfield plays and excellent off the ball running. They probed into the Indian bastion regularly earning a penalty corner in the process. The emerging player of the year Ashley Jackson put his side 2-0 up with a tremendous yet suave hit into the top of the goal. A lesson or two for Sandeep Singh in drag flicking. Untidy clearances by the defenders lead to the third goal for England scored by Nick Catlin in the 47th minute. All seemed lost even as India attacked through flanks recurrently; this one dimensional offensive onset was well cut out by the England defense. Rajpal had a golden chance to put his team in the score card when in 41st minute he showed his class dragging the ball on the reverse into the goal, only to be denied by a whisker. They eventually pulled back one in 54th minute as one of the plethoras of hard crosses into the Dee was well connected by Gurvinder Singh Chandi. Rajpal raised the tempo with a second goal through an awesome display of counter attack and with 12 minutes remaining game was on, India charged harder, England guarded stiffer. With 4 minutes remaining yellow cards to Sardar Singh and Gurbaj Singh didn’t help India’s cause, and a fairly easy chance of equalizer went begging in the closing stages of the match. England hung on to book a semifinal berth.
Gurbaj Singh was by far the best on display for India for the entire tournament with rigid defense, timely tackles and great off the ball running. Bharat was also admirable in the defense occasionally coming up to support the midfield. Dhananjay Mahadik’s lack of inexperience was on display but was good in patches. The midfielders Tushar Khandekar, Sarvanjit Singh san innovative and unimaginative plays disappointed, Arjun Hallapa and Gurvinder Singh Chandi being the shining stars. With midfield in total disarray there was very little Prabjot and Rajpal could have done yet even they didn’t live upto theirexpectations. The biggest Faux pas though was Sandeep Singh, after an explosive start to his first ever World cup match against Pakistan, Sandeep Singh was unable to deliver when it matter and even his defense did not falter many. As for Jose Brasa he thinks this team is on the right track and well let’s be fair to him, he stated even before the tournament that India is not going to win against the likes of Spain and Australia. He is eyeing the16th Asian games to produce some remarkable results. All the best Jose only if you can last that long, as Indian Coach that is. And as for us “PHIR DIL DIYA HAMNE HOCKEY KO”