Attacking India harvests praise and points at Champions Trophy

The 1-1 draw against the Netherlands has put India into the final of the Champions Trophy. The team has played attacking hockey in true Indian tradition and drawn admiring words both at home and away, as well as scoring points against the best teams in the world.

India may have made the Champions Trophy final but it has not all been plain sailing. ‘I was not happy with how the match ended, particularly the final quarter’ said Harendra Singh, after the 1-1 draw against Belgium on Thursday. ‘And that is what I told the lads. We had momentum in the third quarter but we gave it away.’

You would not have expected the number 6 in the world to make the Champions Trophy final given that the likes of Australia, Argentina and the Netherlands are taking part. But Singh’s team have been the surprise of the tournament. They won their first match against arch rivals Pakistan 4-1 and then beat the reigning Olympic champions Argentina. They only just lost to Australia (2-3). The fact that the draw against Belgium is seen as a disappointment says something about the coach and his team.

‘I was happy about the game up to and including the third quarter. We had chances but we did not take them. In the final quarter, we became unstable and erratic. Perhaps that was because they began playing with a kicking back. Towards the end the organisation at the back was a mess.’

A Belgian attack ends in the defence of India. Photo: Willem Vernes

Ahead of the tournament, Singh said he wanted to see attacking hockey ‘as it should be with India’. Four matches later, you can say that the team are capable to taking on any opponent, but still perhaps lack sticking power. In the match against Belgium, for example, India took an early lead in brutal fashion, only to let in a Belgian goal in the dying minutes of the game. Singh himself admits that the driving attack in the last quarter was perhaps ‘a bit too much’.

Despite the loss, India was in second place in the table ahead of the match against the Netherlands. ‘It’s going to be a great game, I am sure of that,’ said Singh before the start. ‘They want to get to the finals in their own country and we want to get there too. I’m asking my team to pull out all the stops in the match against the Netherlands.’

‘This week I have seen a lot positive developments within the team and for Indian hockey in general,’ he says. ‘We can control the game and hold our own against the big hockey nations. That gives us a lot of confidence ahead of the Asian Games and the world championships in our own country.’

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