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It’s Dutch and go
Indian forwards have scored 12 goals from 30 shots and have made 80 circle entries in three matches. File photo
The tribune @ Hockey world cup Indervir Grewal in Bhubaneswar

It’s Dutch and go

With both India and Netherlands in fine form, a thrilling quarterfinal is on the cards13 Dec 2018 | 2:36 AM

India's moment of truth has arrived. After a successful “four-nation tournament”, the team has landed in Bhubaneswar for the World Cup. “World Cup starts now,” India coach Harendra Singh said after their win over Canada.

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India's moment of truth has arrived. After a successful “four-nation tournament”, the team has landed in Bhubaneswar for the World Cup. “World Cup starts now,” India coach Harendra Singh said after their win over Canada. India's “first match”, against the Netherlands, will be the biggest for this bunch of players. One win and India will start “smelling” — as Harendra has repeatedly said — a first World Cup medal since 1975.

But just as Harendra refuses to look at “history”, it would do India good to not look beyond the match against the Dutch. Despite just one spot above India in the world rankings, the world No. 4 are big favourites going into the match. They have history on their side, having won eight World Cup medals so far. India have three medals, while the Dutch have three gold.

The Netherlands are not doing that bad in the present as well. They have played one match more than India, and except for their loss to arch-rivals Germany, the reigning European champions have been in rampant form. In four matches, they have scored 18 goals out of 66 shots and made 166 circle entries. The Netherlands have also conceded five goals, but three of those came in quick succession towards the end of the 4-1 loss to Germany. Overall, though, the Netherlands have been solid in defence and have controlled the midfield with ease. On Tuesday, coach Max Caldas had said his team would set the pace against India.

On Wednesday, Harendra returned the favour. “Hoga to wahi jo hum chahenge,” Harendra said. The coach meant the result would depend on what India did on the field, and not how the opposition played. “The Indian team, mentally and physically, is ready. We have done our homework on the Dutch aggression. Whatever challenge they throw at us, we are ready to solve that, not just accept it,” Harendra said.

Harendra added that the team wouldn't try to change anything. “Whatever we have practised, we won't do anything different. There will be some minor adjustments, obviously. They love to play attacking hockey, so do India. It is an equal contest,” he said.

Confident India 

Harendra's confidence comes from the way India have performed so far. India's stats are also not too bad. In three matches, they have scored 12 goals from 30 shots and have made 80 circle entries. They have conceded just three goals, two coming in the Belgium draw. The 2-2 draw with the world No. 3 would probably give India more confidence than the two victories. After being outplayed in the first half, India bounced back in the second half to take control of the match and go 2-1 ahead. That would give them the confidence to not panic in case they concede first. The match was also a good example of how crucial finishing would be — India scored two from six shots against Belgium.

The Dutch, too, would not give the hosts many clear chances. “In tomorrow's match, you can't afford to miss even 25 percent chances. We have to either score or get a penalty corner,” Harendra said. What about defending penalty corners? “We can't ignore that (Netherlands' penalty corner power). India are ready to solve that challenge. What is the best way to defend a PC? No PC,” said the coach.


HOW INDIA CAN DRIBBLE PAST THE MIGHTY NETHERLANDS

Taking chances

India have scored freely in the tournament so far. But 10 out of their 12 goals have come against lower-ranked teams, who gave India too much space. The Netherlands will be a hard nut to crack. India will not get too many clear chances, so they cannot afford to miss. “In tomorrow's match, you can't afford to miss even 25 percent chances. We should either score or get a penalty corner,” coach Harendra Singh said.

Focus

India have had issues with straying focused throughout the match. It has not been India’s bane alone. While the other teams were hurt, India were not punished by their lower-ranked opponents. Though Canada got the equaliser, it didn't matter much with the result reading 5-1. India's slow start against Belgium saw them fall behind early. They managed to pull back against Belgium, but making the same mistake, with the added pressure of a knockout game, against the Dutchmen could prove costly. “I agree that we have dropped our intensity during a game. We cannot afford that against a team like Holland. I have told them to keep that intensity not just for 60 minutes but 74 minutes, including the halftime and quarterbreaks,” Harendra Singh said.  

Quick movement of ball

Like the Belgians, the Netherlands are also lethal with their counterattacks. They will put the Indians under immense pressure. The midfielders, especially, will have two-three Dutch players try and corner them. Any mistakes there will lead to the Netherlands finding their way into the Indian circle. To prevent that, the Indian players must move the ball with speed. Holding on to the ball or trying to run with it could be suicidal.

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Briefly

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