Hockey World Cup had more hits than flops for Indian players
With nine of the 17 players getting our thumbs up for their World Cup performance, India's quarters show should not be viewed as a failed campaign
(Captain) The Indian captain and the team's most capped player (238 caps), played well in patches in the league phase, which could be put down to a sore throat he suffered due to the weather here. However, in the knockout clash against the Netherlands, he was brilliant in the midfield, marshalling his troops like a true warrior. Unfortunately, his troops failed to respond to his war cry.
With over 200 caps to his name a lot was expected from the veteran goalkeeper, who has always been a rock in the Indian defence. But that cannot be said about him in this tournament, given he conceded five goals in four games here. His vulnerability low down was exposed here on quite a few occasions. Being eldest player in the team at 30, questions are now being raised about his future with Team India.
He had big boots to fill after senior drag-flicker Rupinder Pal Singh was not picked. He came here riding on some good form from India's Asian Champions Trophy win in Oman, where he scored five goals, including a hat-trick against South Korea. However, he failed to do justice to his tag of chief drag flicker here. He scored just one goal off a drag flick in four matches. His other goal was off a penalty stroke.
The talented deep defender stood out in the back line with his staunch tackling and brilliant anticipation. One of the few players to use the aerial ball well, the Punjab lad, 23, has good days ahead of him in defence. He even delivered under pressure by executing a brilliant drag flick when the hosts were 0-1 down against World No. 3 Belgium. The Belgian defence bungled, leading to a penalty stroke, which was converted by Harmanpreet.
The experienced forward (125 caps) was one of the biggest let-downs for Team India in this tournament. The striker scored just once in the 5-0 opening win against South Africa and that too after missing almost half a dozen chances. In the remainder of the tournament he did nothing of note and looked far from threatening even when he received the ball inside the opposition striking circle.
One of two local boys in the team, a lot was expected of this experienced (168 caps) deep defender. Though he didn't make any glaring errors here, he didn't quite do anything noteworthy either. He was picked for this tournament after being rested for the preceding Asian Champions Trophy as he was into rehabilitation. The occasional rustiness in his game was probably due to this.
The hardworking defender was played in short bursts and delivered each time he was brought on to the field. The experienced Manipur defender executed some super stickwork and a sharp run from the left towards the Belgium goal saw him orchestrate India's equaliser at 2-2. A brilliant final pass saw him relay the ball to Simranjit Singh, who had to make the simplest of tap-ins
A good find for India in this tournament, the young forward, 21, was perfectly positioned more often than not in the opposition striking circle. The perfect positioning meant he was in the right place to score goals too. He scored thrice - two against South Africa and the important second goal against Belgium which gave India the lead. A good future prospect for the team.
Was handed the role of senior forward and performed it to the T. Led the Indian forwardline by example and attacked the opposition defence relentlessly throughout the competition. Scored three field goals - one against South Africa and two against Canada against whom he was also adjudged Man of the Match.
The second local boy in the side did well to score off a penalty corner with a rasping hit against Canada. However, in the all-important quarter-final against the Netherlands he wilted under pressure and ran off the penalty corner defensive line early, and was taken off. With just four men left to defend, the Netherlands scored to take a 2-1 lead. He also picked up a rather unnecessary yellow card suspension in the crunch game.
(Vice-captain) The India vice-captain performed well in patches but committed lesser errors than his fellow midfielders which made him stand out. And even when he made errors, he did well to return to re-tackle or reclaim the ball from the opposition. Scored a good field goal against Canada and was one of the few midfielders who assisted skipper Manpreet well in the knockout clash against the Netherlands.
The short-statured Western Railway Ticket Collector was not played for extended periods but did well whenever he was on the field. He admitted to being nervous at the start of India's first match against South Africa, but soon got into the thick of things with some spirited runs and accurate relay passes in the midfield, especially against Canada and Belgium.
The most inexperienced player in the side (six caps) bungled when it mattered most - in the crunch match against the Netherlands. Apart from his mis-passes and faulty interceptions, he even picked a green card suspension towards the end of the third quarter, at a time when most of the Indian team was already backtracking against the Dutch attack. His future selection looks bleak.
The Sonepat lad is one of the fittest in the Indian team, topping the yo-yo fitness test scores, and proved it with his quick runs from the midfield and into attack. However, he was under-utilised which means he got lesser match-time than the other and comparatively more experienced midfielders. He was sturdy in his challenges and ready to give it back physically too, when pressed by the European sides (Belgium and the Netherlands).
He started the tournament as a link-man but it didn't click and so was sent back to his outright forward position. Here too he couldn't deliver much though he did score two field goals -first against SA and the second against the Netherlands, which was not a very difficult rebound reverse flick after Harmanpreet had nearly beaten Dutch custodian Pirmin Blaak off a penalty corner drag flick.
The youngest member of the Indian team, 19, began the tournament well, creating quite a few chances against South Africa. However, he missed some easy scoring opportunities too and that continued throughout the competition. Made some good runs into the opposition striking circle, but thereafter, seemed clueless on how to convert the opportunity into goals.
Another impressive defender who hardly let anything get past him at this World Cup! He was there almost every time there was the need for a hard tackle or a long clearance in the Indian deep defence. He was also one of the few Indian players who orchestrated the overlap to perfection and initiated some sharp counter-attacks from either flank - another defensive necessity for Indian hockey's future.
Australia, Belgium favourites in semis
Defending champions Australia and Olympics silver medallists Belgium are the favourites going into today's World Cup semi-finals against the Netherlands and England respectively. The Australia-Netherlands clash is a repeat of last edition's final. However, the Dutchmen will be hoping that the result won't be as bad - 6-1 in favour of the Aussies.
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