Junior Hockey World Cup 2016: Roelant Oltmans and Harendra Singh term India's narrow victory over Spain a 'deserving victory'
Indian colts came from behind, staging a strong comeback to defeat Spain by a slender 2-1 margin to secure their semi-final berth at the Junior Hockey World Cup in Lucknow. Goals from Simranjeet and Harmanpreet in the second half ensured that the home team crossed the finish line in the all-important quarter-final encounter.
What could be termed as a narrow escape for the hosts, was referred to as a “deserving victory” by Indian team manager Roelant Oltmans and head coach Harendra Singh.
"If you can win matches on luck then I feel we would have won in 2005. I compliment my players. Despite trailing they kept calm and composed heads. They did not do hara-kiri which is generally associated with Indian hockey," Harendra was quoted as saying at the post-match press conference.
"I don't believe in luck, it is their (players) hard work which is producing results."
Roelant Oltmans, the chief coach of the senior side who is currently working with the junior side in the capacity of a manager during the course of the World Cup echoed Harendra Singh’s opinion.
"After every game, there is room for improvement. But in this phase of the tournament it's all about winning. It is very simple. We did many things good today and there are couple of things we could have done better," the Dutchman was quoted as saying to PTI.
Oltmans said that the Indian side which was trailing by one goal at halftime, went in for strategic changes in the second half which the players executed effectively on the field after the change of ends.
"We changed the structure little bit at half-time. We tried to intercept the ball early and tried to put pressure on their defence and in the process earned penalty corners and made circle penetrations," he said.
"The players executed the plans very well in the second half. They (Spain) played a defensive game and tried to come out with counter attacks. They have very skilful players. But we did a good job in our defence today," he added.
The fight-back from Spain was as per expectations according to Harendra Singh but having defeated the visitors twice in the recent past, the Indian team was pretty confident about their chances.
"Spain's performance was on expected lines. They are very nippy and skilful. If you look at the shots on goal there weren't many but after taking the lead they defended in numbers. But at the end of the day, results matter," he said.
A matter of concern for the Indian side is the conversion of penalty corners. The home team won as many as nine corners in the match against Spain but were able to capitalize on just a couple of them.
"Penalty corner conversion is a concern but it just not the drag-flicker who is at fault. There are three main elements which come into play during a penalty corner, injector, stopped and drag-flicker who come at the last. The turf is also a little bumpy here. It sometimes can favour you and also act against you. But at the end of the day, we won the match by a dragflick," Harendra said.
"We shouldn't forget that we were playing in the quarter-finals where top eight teams of the world qualified. We should also need to respect our opponent."
India’s second goal was awarded after a hint of controversy since the on-field umpire awarded the set-piece after accusing the Spanish goalkeeper for deliberately kicking out the ball.
"Umpires take a decision and we have no opportunity here for referrals. If you look at the game, there is only one team which deserved to win. One of the Spanish players told me after the match that umpire felt that the goalkeeper kicked the ball deliberately over the backline but they said it was not deliberate," Oltmans said.
However, Spain’s coach Roger Pallarols felt that the decision was a bit too unfair.
"I would like to congratulate India but we have the feeling that the second goal was gift to India. We have doubt (about the penalty corner). But we respect the Indian players, the organisers. India has been fantastic host. We respect the umpire's decision so we are not lodging any complaint."
Nonetheless, he lauded his team’s performance against tough competitors like India on Thursday.
"Our plan was perfect but we were playing against a very good team. We lacked in experience but we are proud (of our performance)," he said.