As expected, the Indian men’s hockey team won all their group-stage matches at the Hangzhou Asian Games. As expected, they scored a lot of goals, 58 to be exact. As expected, they barely conceded any defeats – five in five matches. As expected, they topped their group and made it to the semi-finals.
Along with many positives, you can find some flaws in the team’s performance so far. The scoring pattern has been a positive one: India had 14 goal scorers in the group stage, with Harmanpreet Singh, Mandeep Singh and Varun Kumar scoring eight each.
As they enter the knockout stages, though, it’s time for a reality check. India tended to blow away the competition in the first round but struggled in the knockouts.
It was a A similar story at the 2018 Asian Games Where they were the defending champions, on paper far better than the rest of the country in the field and hoping to win gold. They have started in form, scoring 76 goals in five matches and conceding just three. Then, when it matters most, they pounce.
They lost the semi-final against Malaysia in a penalty shootout, missed out on Olympic qualification (they had to win it through an Olympic qualifying tournament) and eventually won bronze.
They are also in this World Cup Cracked under pressure. Their recent international performances, particularly in the FIH Pro League, and the quality of players in the squad had tipped them to play in the semi-finals. Failure to even qualify for the quarter-finals eventually led to the sacking of head coach Graham Reid.
India weren’t outright favorites for gold at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, but they are Surrendered in the final – 0-7 loss – Despite having a team that could have pushed Australia to the brink, it was another indication that the team could fail if things start to go wrong.
India won Bronze in Tokyo OlympicsBut it was an outlandish performance – earlier evidence that the team didn’t handle pressure well – and could even work against them later, raising expectations that weren’t met.
Head coach Craig Fulton spoke of the pressure ahead of the trip to Hangzhou. “That’s what expectations are. When you expect something from yourself before you do something, you put pressure on. How do we deal with it? With our game plan and our structure, how long can we stick it out? That’s how we deal. With pressure. .”
Fulton made it to the final of the Asian Champions Trophy in Chennai, when they trailed 1-3 at half-time against Malaysia but turned it around. win the title. “We showed in the ACT final that we can bounce back from situations when it’s not going our way. I’m glad we got to see another side of ourselves, where the players have to move away from Plan A. That was it. good for The boys responded well because it was the final and at home, so we dealt with that.”
But Fulton and his players will know that the Asian Champions Trophy is not the Asian Games, which is the qualification route for the Olympics. Much more is at stake in Hangzhou, where a failure will equal severe criticism.
On paper, India will be favorites against South Korea in the semi-finals. India is ranked third in the world, South Korea is 11th. The Koreans made it difficult for India as they beat them 3-2 in the Asian Champions Trophy. In the third and fourth quarters, South Korea pushed India all the way and lost narrowly.
It could be tough for India if they don’t convert their chances early on. South Korea’s Jung Jong-hyun is a big threat from penalty corners, he has already scored 17 goals in the tournament and is in great form.
If India make the mistake of giving him multiple chances to score, he can turn the game around with his conversions. India’s defense and goalkeepers may not have been much of a contender in the group stages, but they won’t be in the semi-finals. The real competition begins now. Even a silver for India would be an underachievement for this team.
They need to follow the pattern of their group stage outings in terms of dominance in their next two matches. The scoreline may not be big, but the results and on-pitch performance should do justice to their tag of being favourites.