Hockey World Cup 2018: The fourth quarter attacking display against Canada is what India should emulate in the knockout stages
With Belgium defeating South Africa 5-1 in its last league match of Group C, all India needed to do was win its match against Canada. There was no pressure of scoring a certain number of goals.
A simple win against the eleventh ranked team in the world would suffice to top the group and make a direct entry into the quarterfinals of the World Cup. Maybe this relative ‘lack of pressure’ had an adverse effect on the Indian squad.
Attack has been the stronger suit for this relatively young Indian side, and its defence, though not bad by any means, has shown cracks when put under pressure.
A goal by Harmanpreet in the first quarter took off some more pressure from the Indian shoulders.
After this goal, India slackened a bit and though there were sporadic attempts at the Canadian goal, the intensity went missing for the best part of the first half.
The result was such that after the first half, though India was still leading by a solitary goal, Canada was beginning to look better with each passing minute and had more possession than their opponents!
It was expected that the coach Harendra Singh would instruct his team to play their natural attacking game in the second half, without compromising the basics. Unfortunately, that was not how it panned out in the third quarter.
The focus seemed to be more on preserving the lead than extending it. Canada duly punished India for this flawed tactic, when Gordon Johnston scored the equalizer in the thirty-eighth minute.
In hindsight, India should be grateful that the Canadian goal happened with still more than twenty minutes to go and not in the dying moments. This goal stunned the Indians and rudely awakened them from the misplaced complacency.
The urgency and intensity that had gone missing for much of the match were suddenly back and the last quarter of the match showcased what this Indian side is actually capable of.
It is not just the four goals that India scored in the last quarter, but with the intensity in which they played a fearless brand of hockey is something that India should try to replicate in their remaining matches, starting with the quarter-final.
Attack is the strong suit for this Indian side, and they should stick to their aggressive brand of play in the remaining matches, whoever their opponents may be, henceforth.
That is the only way this Indian side could have a realistic shot at progressing further in the tournament and fulfill the dream of a billion people.
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