Captain Manpreet Singh is right: Playing aggressive hockey is the only way India can beat Netherlands
Of the four teams that topped their groups and directly qualified for the quarterfinals in the ongoing Men’s Hockey World Cup being held at Bhubaneshwar, it’s India which has arguably landed the most difficult opponent.
India’s head-to-head record against the Netherlands is not a great one. India has won 33 and lost 48 matches of the 105 matches they have played so far. India’s record has been especially poor in the last three decades.
However, Indian hockey is on a slight upward curve in the last four to five years. This is reflected in their record against the Netherlands since 2013. They have faced each other nine times during this period and each has won four times each. Their most recent encounter was at the Champions trophy this year, and the match ended in a 1-1 draw.
The Netherlands is currently ranked world number four and India is placed number five. So, ranking-wise, there is not much difference between the two sides. However, even though the Netherlands is ranked below Belgium and Argentina, they have arguably been a better side than both of them in the last decade.
In fact, Australia and Netherlands have been the two most dominant sides in world hockey for quite some time now. It’s unfortunate that despite topping the group, India has run into one of them at the quarter-final stage, thanks to a poor fourth quarter from the Dutch in their group stage match against Germany!
However, though the Netherlands is a slight favourite, India does have a realistic chance of upstaging them. But, for that to happen, India has to play to their strength. As captain Manpreet Singh has rightly pointed out, an attacking brand of hockey is this Indian side’s strength.
They have done well whenever they have stuck to their attacking game, as was seen in the last quarter against Canada in their group match. India has no option but to stick to their aggressive brand of hockey. That is their best chance to get past a side that is in terrific goalscoring form and has traditionally done well in big tournaments.