Two unforced errors proved
M M Somaya
costly for India
Strangely India won some
admiration and sympathy with their improved turn-out though they lost all three points to South Korea.
The Indian side, sponsored by Castrol, had shown resilience
and courage to fight back against Japan in the first match and
eke out a point. They picked up from there, showing definite
sense of purpose in their initial play and also did most of
the domination, but, sadly, all this good work was negated thanks
mainly to two inexplicable unforced errors.
Unforced errors at this level of the game, especially in
the defensive quarter of the pitch, receive no reprieve. Once
in each half, India were made to pay for this age-old malady.
Kanwalpreet Singh's interception of an overhead scoop,
with a raised stick, and Sabu Varkey's loose pass near the
defensive area led to the two goals for Korea much against the
run of play.
Even Jugraj Singh's super strike through a penalty-corner
flick on the stroke of full-time was little consolation.
It was a pleasure to watch the Indians pressurise the
Koreans in their quarter of the pitch right from the word go.
The full court press was applied with the half-backs and
forwards working in synergy to heckle the Koreans deep in
their own half, so that India could make interceptions and
wrest greater possesion of the ball.
On astro-turf this is extremely strenuous and should be
applied only in short bursts. India did this well, which was
the reason why Korea were subdued and not their normal
effervescent selves for large parts of the match.
Another heartening feature of their play was the manner in
which the mid-fielders made an attempt to receive the ball by
creating space and protecting the ball in crowded areas.
A necessity to play the parallel or square ball does
exist while playing teams like Korea, who have a crowded
defence. India's resorting to this ploy may, therefore, appear
justified to some extent and is surely a better alternative than frittering away possession of the ball.
However, the controlled passing needs to be mixed with
that probing pass and the penetrative dribble to surprise the
opposition at regular intervals. The Indian players did not
seem inclined to do that very often.
Right-half Sukhbir Singh Gill, in particular, who is
otherwise known for his penchant to attack, sat back and played
the safe square pass more often than not. Hence India's chances to catch the Koreans off-guard
were limited. Two long through hits that came Baljit
Dhillon's way needed raised deflections by the skipper to
carry it over a diving 'keeper Kim Yoon into a gaping goal. Sadly this was not to be and Yoon smothered both those attempts.
Capitalising on counter attacks when the opposition
defence is in disarray is vital. India had another excellent
chance when two of their forwards were faced with one rival
defender to contend with.
Baljit Dhillon, who otherwise had a good game, again
could not make it count. Korea did not let such a chance slip
when Woon-Kon Yeo beat Jude from close after Sabu's wrong
Two classy strikes by Jugraj Singh, one that rocked the
crossbar and the other that brought the goal, showed what an
asset this youngster could be in the business of penalty-corners. With him in form, the penalty-corner conversion rate which was one out of seven against Korea could be much
With five more matches to play in the pool and fifteen
more points at stake, India have everything to play for.
Their next opponent, hosts Malaysia, would be coming in
with their tails up having a win over Japan under their belt. But India, on their showing against Korea, should start as favourites. Their fightback against Japan and their cool
composure against Korea should be used as a motivator,
especially for the youngsters for whom the World Cup has been
a stormy debut.
M M Somaya was a member of the Indian hockey team at the Olympics of 1980, '84 and '88.
More reports from the World Cup
Unimpressive India lose to Korea
Malaysia score first victory
Australia struggle; Poland cruise
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