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India men’s hockey team finish group stage with uncertainty, injury to SV Sunil

India had a nervy finish to their group stage match as they drew 2-2 with lower ranked Canada.

Written by Shivani Naik | Rio De Janeiro |
August 13, 2016 5:43:10 am
india hockey, hockey india, india vs canada, india vs canada hockey, india hockey quarterfinal, india hockey team, india men's hockey team, sv sunil, olympics, rio 2016, rio olympics India’s SV Sunil was stretchered off after he hit the advertisement boards. (Source: Reuters)

It might prove to be the biggest setback of this Olympics, stalling India’s momentum. Ironically, SV Sunil was down wincing in pain because he couldn’t arrest his run and went and crashed into the side boards injuring his wrist, as India finished in a downer – a 2-2 draw to Canada before they line up for their quarterfinals.

India’s speedy winger from the right is central to its plans, and coach Oltmans said, “It’s too early to say. He needs to have a scan. He fell into the board and injured his wrists.”

If Argentina win their match later in the day, then India will play Belgium. If Argentina lose, or even draw, then India play Spain. With their failure to beat Canada, India ensured they left their fate in the hands of another team – funnily the one team they’d surprisingly beaten giving them points that could’ve pushed them higher than fourth had they managed to beat Canada.

Two Argentine juggling artists stood outside the stadium entertaining spectators who’d trooped in for hockey, basketball in the same arena. The possibilities for India were akin to that whir of the pins tossed in the air, with their future hinging on teams as varied as Brazil, Australia, Spain and Great Britain.

“I’m sure we will finish fourth and face Belgium,” Oltmans said, however.

How did the high flying team from two days ago wind up here?

The wins against Ireland and Argentina, the promising showing against Germany and the minute margin against Netherlands meant India weren’t branded utter goners like London.

While the forwards Ramandeep and Akashdeep got into the swing of things, scoring hasn’t been the easiest for India’s men upfront. Missing sitters they have struggled to get those field goals which are essential bread and butter for their existence.

Against Holland, India won five penalty corners in the end – and attempted five different variations, down 1-2. Sometimes, basics fetch goals, and that option wasn’t considered – perhaps experimentation was the intention. But when goal keepers are taken off, it makes little sense for six men to dawdle at half line, and clearing the ball timely ought to be a priority not an almighty rudimentary struggle.

Against Canada too while the offense didn’t strike a rhythm early, the defense too allowed a couple in, with Sreejesh having an off day. Yes, that can happen. And

India ought to be prepared for balls that gush in under his armpits and he’s slow to stop the flow.

Energy levels were low, India conceded from penalty corners and some poor goals – which could be a result of three back to back matches on successive days. “We got opportunities and could not convert them. But getting a place in the quarters was more important,” PR Sreejesh recalibrated his expectations.

The second quarter had been littered with chances, squandered by Indians. “That was the quarter we should have made the difference in my point of view. We took the advantage but could not make it happen. We conceded penalty corner and a goal again. These kind of lessons, they have it shown and they understand it now. Not for the first time in history. It should not happen. You should not get over excited after scoring a goal. You should just stick to your structure,” Oltmans added.

India have played Belgium a couple of times in the near past – World Hockey League and the Champions Trophy. “Both times we lost by one goal difference. All strong sides. Let’s see what we can manage here,” the coach added, pretty displeased with the last league outing.

Oltmans reiterated the need to score more goals in the second and third quarters. “If we did that we would have been ahead. We kept Canada alive and gave the opportunity to draw, that’s something we have to learn.”

He also spoke of boosting his forward line up, adding, “They are really in a good shape. It will be an exciting match.”

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