Late goals the only disappointment for Indian men's hockey team
- Indian team has a history of conceding late goals in major tournaments. It's time to look back and learn from the past.
Team India is building up good momentum as the Olympic hockey tournament is progressing in Rio but conceding late goals is still haunting India. The Indian team looks most vulnerable in the fourth quarter. In the final quarter, India conceded ten penalty corners in their three matches. On the score sheet, they scored one and conceded three goals in the last quarter, whereas they have conceded two and scored none in the final five minutes.
Last minute or last stage goals have always haunted India in the big tournaments. In the Sydney Olympics, India came closest to making it to the semifinals since 1980. They needed a win or at least a 2-2 draw against lowly ranked Poland to book their place in the semifinals. India were leading 1-0 till the 69’ – that’s when Tomasz Cichy of Poland scored an equalizer and the match ended 1-1. South Korea went on to play the semifinals on a better goal difference.
In 1996 Atlanta Olympics, had India won the league match against Germany they could well have been in the semifinals. They took the lead in the 62’ with a goal from Mukesh Kumar. All they needed was to hold on for next eight minutes but Stefan Saliger scored in the 66’ and match ended in a draw.
In recent World Cups, India conceded last minute goals to lose matches. They lost against Germany 3-2 in 2006 at Mönchengladbach in the opener due to a 70’ minute goal and went again to lose to South Korea 2-1 in a 69’ minute goal. Though the reverse results of both these matches might not have put India into the next round, defensive errors in the final minutes were upsetting.
In the 2014 World Cup in Netherlands, India were leading 2-1 against Belgium in their opening match but gave away the lead in the 56’ and then a 70’ goal by John-John Dohmen gave Belgium a 3-2 win. In the very next match, India lost to England 1-2 because their striker Simon Douglas Mantell scored in the 70’. India could easily have taken away four points from these two matches and that could have made a difference.
In the 2011 Champions Challenge final in Johannesburg against Belgium, another heartbreaking match for Indian fans. India were leading 3-1 till 55’. Then there was a rush of goals by the Red Devils. They scored 3 goals in the last five minutes including a 70’ winner by Tom Boon.
In the 2014 Champions Trophy semifinal, Arslan Qadir of Pakistan scored in the 59’ minute against India at Bhubaneswar to take his team into the final.
India have won the silver medal in the 2016 Champions Trophy in London but if you look at the last minute goals conceded, it’s still a worrying area for India. The Germans drew 3-3 with India after scoring a 57’ goal. The Koreans were almost knocking them out from qualifying in the gold medal match with another 57’ goal, but fortunately, lady luck struck for India and Nikkin Thimmaiah got a chance to deflect the ball into the goal seconds after the Korean goal, giving India a 2-1 victory and a place in the Champions Trophy finals.
It’s high time we don’t let our fate be decided by the last minute goals. We need to look at our past experience and learn the lesson.
The Indian team in Rio have displayed a perfect European brand of hockey against Germany and Argentina in the last two matches. The conversion rate of penalty corners has been good so far. Great field coverage and players playing total hockey is clearly visible. India has all the skill and ammunition to keep the momentum going forward and challenge the top teams.
If India wants the much awaited podium finish, they will need a bit of lady luck on their side and avoid conceding the late goals. The Indians are giving away the momentum to the opposition in the final quarter. What is encouraging is that the Indians are playing the right style of hockey but need to play with a positive mindset especially in the final quarter.
All the best boys. India is with you. Go get us our crown back!