India came back strongly after a two-goal deficit but still lost 3-4 to defending champions South Korea in the final of the ninth Asia Cup hockey tournament in Ipoh, Malaysia, on Sunday
The players made known their disappointment with the umpiring; they feel a bad decision at the fag end of the match cost them the title.
Australian umpire Murray Grime awarded Korea a penalty-corner just two minutes from the hooter when Rupinderpal Singh tackled a Korean forward inside the circle.
The Indian players feel the umpire erred in his judgement as the tackle was clean.
"The last penalty-corner which Korea got was wrongly given. By no chance was it a penalty corner. It was a clean tackle from Rupinder, but the umpire debated that he deliberately did it," an Indian player said.
The resultant penalty-corner hurt India badly, as Kang Moon Kweon converted it to shatter the hopes of the handful of Indian supporters present at the Sultan Azlan Shah stadium.
"The umpiring cost us the match. We came here with one purpose: to win the tournament. But in the end we are happy with the way we played here," another player said.
India's interim Dutch coach Roelant Oltmans, when asked about the decisive penalty-corner, simply said: "It's better not to say anything about it.
"Obviously, I am disappointed with the end result, but we are proud of the way we came back into the game. In the first half we didn't play well but in the second we really played outstanding hockey. We scored two fantastic goals.
"This team has fought its heart out. We became strong as a team with every game. The way we played in this tournament, we should be proud of ourselves.
"It will take a little bit time. We have to play this kind of finals more often. I remember when I started with Holland we lost the first three finals before winning ten in a row.
"So, hopefully this a good start."
Winning the Asia Cup would have given India a direct entry into next year's World Cup at The Hague, Netherlands.
Nevertheless, the Indians are virtually assured of place in the showpiece event, the official confirmation of which will come only after the conclusion of the Oceania Cup in November, which either Australia or New Zealand is expected to win.
"We will have to wait for either New Zealand or Australia to win the Oceania Cup. Normally one of these two teams win the Oceania Cup. So we are quite certain that at least we will be in the World Cup. It is an important achievement, but we came here to win the Asia Cup and we were close," Oltmans added.
He praised his young forwardline, saying it was good to see competition for places in the team.
"Our young forwards did a very good job. They scored two good goals today. I am pleased to see that a number of good forwards are coming up in Indian hockey. There are few more players who are not here. So there will be a fight among them to make it to the team," the Dutchman said.
Photograph: International Hockey Federation/Facebook