Bhubaneswar: They had flocked the Kalinga Stadium here Monday evening in hordes. They shouted themselves hoarse supporting the ‘Boys in Blue’ waved the Tricolour madly all through the game, but again had to go home disappointed as India went down 0-2 to Germany in their last Pool B encounter of the Men’s World Hockey League Finals (HWLF) to finish at the bottom of the group with just a single point from three games.
India now will have to wait till Tuesday to know who their opponents from Pool A (they play the top side) will be. It is likely, they will play Belgium and then it will certainly be tricky as in the recent past, India’s record against hasn’t been very inspiring.
It was a tactical display by the Germans that completely rattled the Indians. The European powerhouses played possession hockey, varying the pace of the game and never allowing the Indians to really mount a challenge. They got their goals through Martin Haner (17th off penalty corner) and Mats Grambusch (20th) to emerge comfortable winners. However, they had 64 per cent of ball possession, thereby effectively ruling out chances of an Indian revival.
In the recent past, the Indians, against higher-ranked opponents have always adopted the counter-attack strategy. Monday was no exception, but the Germans always had two players hanging back to thwart Indian aspirations. Akashdeep Singh and Chingalsana Kangujam did make some attempts down the left, but they came up against a resolute Haner and Dan Nguyen who nipped many a movement in the bud.
After a barren first half, Germany took the lead early in the second session. Amit Rohidas conceded a penalty corner failing to get his foot out of the way off a Florian Fuchs hit. Haner was right on the money to hit the mark past a sprawling Akash Chitke who was late in coming down on the ball. Not being a tall man, it was expected that Chitke would come down on the ball quickly. But he failed to do so.
The Germans were a bit lucky with the second goal as Grambusch’s shot from the edge of the ‘D’ took a cruel deflection off Birendra Lakra and fly into the back of the Indian net. But there was no one to challenge him after he had failed in his first attempt to trap the cutback from Christopher Ruhr. Rupinder Pal Singh and Lakra, both close to Grambusch, were guilty of not making a prompt interception.
Also the ineffectiveness of SK Uthappa and skipper Manpreet Singh, contributed to India’s downfall. They were at times found wanting for pace and on many occasions could not be in proper position to accept a return pass. India also earned three penalty corners, but failed to convert any and their conversion rate in the tournament looks a poor 12-2
Overall a very poor display indeed. Sardar Singh, must definitely be increasing his daily workload. A comeback is imminent.