Fighting India out of title race

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 09 Dec 2017 09:59:19



RAIN spoiled India’s party as they struggled in heavy pitch conditions to lose 0-1 to Olympic champions Argentina and crash out of title race in the Hockey World League (HWL) Final.
The city crowd braved rain and windy conditions to pack the stadium and support the home team, but returned home disappointed as India were done in by a waterlogged pitch at the Kalinga Stadium. Argentina utilised the only penalty corner that came their way to perfection in the first semi-final of the eight-nation tournament.

Gonzalo Peillat struck from his team’s only short corner in the 17th minute to take a decisive 1-0 lead that the world number one side managed to hold on despite a barrage of attacks from India in the third and fourth quarters.
Going by statistics, India had the upper hand over Argentina. The Indians had more shots on goal (5 as against Argentina’s 4) and circle entries (11 against 10) than their opponents, but what eluded them is a goal that could have taken the match into a shoot-out.

The semi-final hurdle continued to haunt India in the tournament as they also crashed out in the same round of the event’s last edition at Raipur in 2015, eventually finishing third.

The International Hockey Federation’s (FIH) decision to continue with the match despite unfavourable pitch conditions because of continuous downpour came as a surprise for all and sundry, especially Netherlands and England, who too struggled in the seventh-eighth place
classification match earlier in the day. Both the teams struggled to cope with the conditions and the first quarter failed to produce any clear cut chance.

The Argentines, on one occasion, came close early but India goalkeeper Akash Chikte was alert and dived full length to intercept a dangerous-looking pass.
The Argentines handled the conditions much better than the Indians, who struggled to pass the ball and could not tackle the adverse weather.

The heavy pitch following relentless downpour ensured that the Indians cannot rely on their strength -- fast counter attacks -- to unsettle the Argentines.
The Argentines on the other hand, realised the need of the hour.

They slowed the pace of the game and used the aerial ball more often than their opponents.
With field goals difficult to come by on a waterlogged pitch, penalty corner conversions became the need of the hour and the Los Leones duly utilised
the only short corner that came their way.