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September 21, 2000
A lesson in the modern gameCedric D'Souza
It was an early morning start, and after the hard, gruelling match against Australia our boys looked sluggish, jaded and out of sorts. But let us give credit to the Koreans for their resilience, drive and will to win.
Yes, it was an early morning for them too; besides they were under tremendous pressure, having only accumulated just two points from their previous two games. However, they held their nerve and dominated this fast-paced match by really playing to their strength -- superior fitness. One would like to go a step further and say that they provided us a lesson in how modern hockey should be played.
It was all there. Excellent man-to-man marking, closing the man down and not giving him room to manoeuvre.
They showed how to handle pressure when on the defensive. This they did by hurrying our boys into taking shots at their goal; by holding possession, and then instantly transferring defence into attack. They controlled the pace of the match and made us play to their tune; created space and opened gaps by pulling our defenders away from primary locations. And, as is their wont, utilized and converted the chances that came their way, especially while playing on the break.
To put it bluntly, we lost because of our midfield. It was pathetic, and crumbled in face of the fast-paced onslaught.
Added to that there were too many errors in the defence. Like ball watching; losing possession by poor or hurried clearances and lack of communication. The main Korean players were not marked and allowed too much space.
Our forwards too were guilty of fumbling and missing opportunities in the circle. At least in a one on one situation they must be able to get the ball between the posts. They even failed to pick up rebounds and have a try at goal.
Players under utilised: No matter how fit a player is, the privilege of the rolling substitution must be utilized to the fullest. For example, when someone is off colour or missing chances, he needs to be replaced, given a pep talk (tactical, psychological and emotional) and sent back.
The goals: In the 28th minute their ever-reliable Seong Song Tae was on target, when he collected a pass from midfielder Kyung-Seok Kim and, with his customary panache, slammed it past a diving Jude Menezes, using what is considered the most difficult of shots to save - - the Argentinean reverse hit. Jude, prior to this, had made a couple of brilliant saves to keep the Koreans at bay.
After the lemon break, in the 42nd minute, it was Seong who turned provider as he fed the ball to unmarked Woon-Kon Yeo. Finding space in front of him, with no threat from our defence, he burst into the circle and scored, giving little or no chance to our defenders to react.
Let us look at the points tally: Korea and Australia 5 points; India and Poland 4; Spain and Argentina 2.
So where does this leave us now?
At the moment, all the six teams are in contention for a berth in the semi-finals. Which means all will try and garnish maximum points from their last two fixtures.
The maximum points that each of these teams can derive are: Korea11, Australia 11, India 10, Poland 10 and Spain 8 and Argentina 8.
Spain and Argentina have to win both their matches otherwise they are out. The other four teams - - Korea, Australia, India and Poland do have the liberty to win one and draw one and then look at the calculators.
India has unnecessarily put themselves under undue pressure. But let's not look for scapegoats for this performance; rather let us learn from the mistakes. This is not the time to cry over spilt milk. The team must forget about the loss and focus on the tasks at hand.
They can still make it. All it needs is better teamwork and planning.
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