CHENNAI: What started out as a day to rectify their record against higher-ranked teams ended in that familiar feeling as India were beaten 1-3 by The Netherlands in a their Pool B encounter of the Hockey World League Semifinal on Tuesday.
The World No 4 Dutch flew off the blocks, taking a 2-0 lead inside the first 12 minutes. Thierry Brinkman grabbed the opener in no time, after Sardar Singh was dispossessed in midfield and the resulting pass found Brinkman, made no mistake from close. Sander Baart then found the net with a penalty corner in the 12th minute to double the Dutch’s lead.
This was a match that would decide who topped the group, and as a result play the second-placed team in the other group. And despite promising to be feisty, it turned out to be an easy win for the team that finished fourth at the Rio Olympics. Mirco Pruijser’s strike in the 24th minute after a following a rapid counter-attack more or less settled the encounter for the Oranje, and left India chasing shadows, while also limiting the damage.
The silver lining did arrive in the form of an impressive, improvised finish by Akashdeep Singh in the 28th minute. After receiving a defence-splitting pass from SV Sunil, the forward did well to adjust despite over-running the ball a bit and slot home with a shot between his legs, a la Roger Federer.
The Indians did well to keep the pressure on their opponents thereafter, but with the threat of conceding another goal hanging over their heads, they also had to be careful.
There were no more goals for the excited crowd to see, but it was an entertaining hooter-to-hooter affair, with top-quality hockey to mark the final group game of both teams.
It will not be an easy match in the quarterfinals for India, as they will play Olympic champions Argentina. But Roelant Oltmans’ team can take heart from the fact that they were the only team to hand the South Americans a loss during their victorious campaign in Rio.