- India knocked down arch-rivals to secure the third spot in the five-team tournament of the Asian Champions Trophy.
- India was ousted from the semifinals after suffering defeat to Japan 3-5
- Goals scored by Akashdeep Singh, Harmanpreet Singh, Sumit and Varun Kumar helped India knockdown Pakistan with a 4-3 scoreboard.
Though the Asian Champions Trophy might not provide a comprehensive context, the past week for India indicates that the path trodden by the Indian Hockey team towards an Asian games Gold and to the Paris Olympics would be much more challenging than what many of us imagined.
Whether it is the intensity of talent or the sum of investment, the number of matches played or the magnification in recent accomplishments, the Bronze medallist of the Tokyo Olympics have always outshone themselves compared to the rest of Asia. However, surprisingly enough the team has been ineffective in displaying dominance on the field as witnessed in their last week’s performance in Dhaka.
A phenomenal comeback was etched by South Korea who equalised the scoreboard with merely 0.01 seconds remaining and later vanquished Japan 4-2 by eans of tie-breakers to secure the gold medal. India was ousted from the race for gold after it was defeated 3-5 by Japan in the semi-final match on Tuesday. Japan kicked off the match with an array of attacks and penalty corners ahead of gaining a two-goal cushion. The Indian team attempted to make a comeback in the second quarter with a goal at the start but Japan’s penalty stroke towards the conclusion of the match helped them lead by two goals. Following this, a defensive lapse from India helped Japan score the fourth goal prior to a score of 5-1 towards the end of the third quarter.
The Tokyo bronze medalists then huffed their way past a hard-wearing Pakistan who had failed to qualify for the last two games and trounced them 4-3 to secure the third spot in the five-team tournament. Spectators got to witness a classic India-Pakistan match loaded with free-flowing attacks, penetrable defence, inadequate structure and discipline alongside a good deal of goals.
From a contrary yet larger perspective the bronze in Asian Champions Trophy might hold little gravity. If anything, it has only extended India’s wait for a continental title. The last time India had triumphed in an Asian competition was four years ago under the coaching of Sjoerd Marijne where it won the Asia Cup. Since then, the Indian team has toppled out of the semifinals twice, once in this year’s Asian Champions Trophy and at the Asian Games of 2018.
Complacency and indiscipline have contributed to the inability on the part of the Indian men’s hockey team to stamp their authority even after carrying out podium finishes in global events.
In the third-place playoff match with Pakistan, India overcame with a 2-1 half time deficit and scored two goals in the final quarter. With the scoreboard reading 4-2, the team became relaxed enabling the opposition to reduce the margin. The Indian team was reduced to nine men ahead of making clumsy tackles out of desperation which nearly cost them the win.
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The rime reason India concluded at the podium in the Olympics was that they adhered to a game plan, were consistently strong on the ball, made harp runs off possession and played aggressively at all times maintaining structure and a good level of discipline.
Goal scorers for the defending champions were vice-captain Harmanpreet Singh, Varun Kumar, Sumit and Akashdeep Singh. Those from the opposition were Afraz, Abdul Rana and Ahmed Nadeem.