Hockey World Cup: India thrash South Africa 5-0 to begin with a bang
Hosts beat South Africa 5-0 to begin their World Cup campaign with a bang
India began their World Cup campaign here with an emphatic 5-0 win against South Africa. However, there's a similar statistic that went against them in the match too. India failed to make direct conversions off all the five penalty corners they received — drag flicker Harmanpreet Singh's efforts being easily thwarted by South African goalkeeper Rassie Pieterse. Coach Harendra Singh though said he was not bothered about the direct penalty corner misses since the team scored a couple of goals [first and the last] off penalty corner rebounds. "We didn't stop two PCs cleanly in between and that's something we will have to look into later," said Harendra Singh at the post-match press conference.
India striker Mandeep Singh was guilty of missing at least half a dozen chances upfront though credit must go to him for working out penalty corners for the team through which he scored the opener — getting to the end off a rebound off the goalkeeper to knock in the first goal in the 10th minute. Two minutes later Akashdeep Singh tapped in for 2-0. Coach Harendra Singh later revealed that Akashdeep has had a change in role which is working well. "Akashdeep has good peripheral vision to send in good passes and can also beat a couple of players on the run. So just like Dhanraj Pillay was withdrawn from the striker's role a good 15 years ago and made to play an attacking midfielder's role where he played out good passes to his strikers, similarly, Akashdeep is our attacking midfielder, and did a fine job today," said Harendra.
The coach has appointed a leader in each department. "Harmanpreet is our leader in defence, Manpreet Singh is the leader in defensive midfield, Akashdeep in attacking midfield and Lalit Upadhyay in the forwardline. But it's nice to see all the players contributing to the defence today. A clean matchsheet first up is a good sign and the defenders alone are not responsible for it — for me, all 11 players are defenders," explained Harendra. After going 2-0 down, the South Africans changed things on the field and caught the Indians off-guard by adding a midfielder. Harendra admitted it took some time for the hosts to decipher this but eventually they put their brains together and worked their way around it. Young forward Simranjeet Singh scored an opportunistic brace — 43rd and 46th minutes — sandwiching a neat deflection goal by Lalit in the 45th. Deep into the match, India goalkeeper PR Sreejesh was kept a bit busy and had to come up with a couple of good stops with his stick. "It's nice to have the full points in the bag in the first match but next up are Belgium [Sunday, Dec 2] and we have to perform better against them," warned the veteran custodian.
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