Hockey World Cup: With 'link' down, India struggle with network

Dec 03, 2018, 09:43 IST | Ashwin Ferro

Akashdeep was not only ineffective in the first half, but also made a host of unforced errors, leading to the team soaking in some unnecessary pressure

Hockey World Cup: With 'link' down, India struggle with network
Akashdeep Singh

Moments after India’s 5- 0 win over South Africa in their World Cup opener last week, coach Harendra Singh had revealed that he had withdrawn striker Akashdeep Singh to play link- man or feeder’s role from just behind the forwardline. “ It’s a role similar to what former India captain Dhanraj Pillay played later on in his career, feeding clever balls to the forwardline. Akashdeep has a good peripheral vision and can dodge players on the run,” Harendra had said. However, yesterday against the mighty Belgium, it won’t be wrong to say that India’s link was down.

Akashdeep was not only ineffective in the first half, but also made a host of unforced errors, leading to the team soaking in some unnecessary pressure. Thankfully, the team’s think- tank changed things in the third quarter — Akashdeep pushed ahead with Dilpreet playing in his position and Manpreet stepping up in his defensive midfield role.

Akashdeep admitted that the team’s strategy had to be changed for India to shift from defensive to attacking hockey against World No. 3 Belgium.

“ After we were continuously pressed defensively in the first half, our coach [ Harendra Singh] changed things. To ensure we could play more attacking hockey, in the second half [ third quarter onwards] the coach decided to play me play as striker and Simranjeet Singh began playing attacking midfield, and it worked. We [ players] are flexible to such changes as we have been playing for a long time together now,” said Akashdeep.

Harendra also admitted that the midfield wasn’t working initially.

“ In the midfield, we were simply not getting too many chances in the first two quarters. There was no floating midfielder to pass the ball around. Instead, they [ Belgium] were snatching the ball from us and making us run behind them,” he said at the post-match media briefing yesterday.

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