BHUBANESWAR: After suffering back-to-back defeats against Germany and Argentina, hosts India will be desperate to earn their first points when they take on table toppers Netherlands in the last Pool B league match of the 35th Men’s Champions Trophy hockey tournament here at Kalinga Stadium Hockey Complex on Tuesday.
But considering the disappointing performances Sardar Singh & Co put up in the first two matches, it will be a herculean task for them to even hold Netherlands to a draw, let alone winning. Conceding soft goals in the final moments let India down as they lost to Germany by a solitary goal and to Argentina 2-4.
Winning the Commonwealth silver, Asiad gold and a Test series against Australia earlier this year may have made India look like a formidable team. But in the Champions Trophy, they have came a cropper against European and Latin American teams, repeating the age-old mistakes. Especially in the last quarter, Indians seemed to have run out of both brain and brawn. Captain Sardar has failed to lead the team by example and at times looked out of ideas. Instead of creating scoring opportunities by feeding the forwards, he has often sent the ball to the defenders. A number of attacking moves by the home team proved in vain due to wrong passing and trapping. The defence department appeared most vulnerable.
The only the player to live up to his reputation was goalkeeper P R Sreejesh. But for him, India’s plight would have been worst. Irrespective of the outcome of the game against Netherlands, India will meet either England or Belgium in the quarterfinals.
In other last-round league matches on Tuesday, England will meet Belgium, Australia will face Pakistan and Germany will take on Argentina. England lead Pool B with a full six points, followed by Belgium, who have four points. Both Argentina and Germany now have three points each in Pool B.