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FIH Men's Hockey World Cup 2023: Overdependence on Harmanpreet Singh, Hardik Singh's injury cost India
1/23/2023 10:46:05 PM
NEW DELHI, Jan 23: Patchy, inconsistent and lack of execution. These are the words used frequently by head coach Graham Reid during India's disastrous FIH Men's World Cup campaign, which undid the team's historic bronze-winning feat at the Tokyo Olympics.
The choice of adjectives from the veteran coach and former Australia international was indicative of the struggle of his wards in this World Cup. This despite having 12 players from the Tokyo Games squad.
For a team that had come into the tournament with hopes of a first podium finish after the 1975 gold, crashing out before the quarterfinals was nothing short of a debacle.
This team was good enough to at least reach the quarterfinals, if not the semifinals. But who would have thought that the world number six home side would lose to 12th ranked New Zealand in the penalty shootout of the crossover match after being ahead by two goals on two occasions.
With crores of rupees being spent on the team's training, exposure tours and support staff salaries, it ought to have done better.
This was the fourth-worst performance for the country in the history of the World Cup. The best India can finish in this tournament is ninth, for which they will begin with their classification match against Japan on January 26 in Rourkela.
India is one of the four teams to have taken part in all 15 editions of the World Cup and they had finished below ninth on four occasions -- in 1986 (12th), 1990 (10th), 2002 (10th) and 2006 (10th). They had finished ninth in 1998 and 2014.
In the last edition, India had finished sixth after losing to the Netherlands in the quarterfinals.
The reasons for the early exit are numerous, as Reid himself said at the post-match press conference on Sunday. Two main reasons were the abysmal rate of penalty corner conversion and the lack of finishing by the forwards. Adding to this was the inconsistency in defending.
The woes in penalty corner conversion was too evident as India scored just five goals from the 26 penalty corners they earned across four matches. It is less than one-fifth success rate which is unacceptable for a team seeking to go beyond the quarterfinals.
Of the five goals from the PCs, only two were from direct drag-flick -- one from captain Harmanpreet against Wales and the other from Varun Kumar against New Zealand. The remaining three were scored from the rebounds -- from the sticks of Amit Rohidas, Shamsher Singh and Sukhjeet Singh.
Harmanpreet took most of India's PCs but could score just twice. Though penalty corner conversion rate has gone down for most of the teams in recent years due to better defending and use of equipment, India's average of goals from PCs is too low as compared to other teams.
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