GOLD COAST: On the first day when Pakistan came back in the last second to equalise, India coach Sjoerd Marijne said his players lack consistency.
“You have to be consistent day after day, not just one game. You have to be like the Australians. Always the best,” he had said. The performance of the hockey team has been outrageous at times and sublime at others.
Against Pakistan they were erratic, against Malaysia, who England beat by seven goals, India managed to scrape through. Ditto with Wales. When India took the field on Wednesday, they had to beat England if they wanted to avoid Australia in the semis.
Trailing 2-3 in the dying minutes, India suddenly summoned all their resources and scored two goals in two minutes to win 4-3. No one had given India a chance against England, who were very good throughout.
It was a see-saw battle as both were trying to avoid the Aussies. England had more possession but India kept getting crucial breaks.
England took the lead in the 16th minute through David Condon only for India to equalise through Manpreet Singh. Rupinder Pal Singh made it 2-1 but England struck back minutes later through Liam Ansell and took the lead in the 55th minute. This time Sam Ward scored.
V arun Kumar then restored parity through a penalty corner before Mandeep found the net in the last minute. The sprinkling of Indian diaspora at the stadium erupted in joy.
The India coach was pleased to see their resilience. “The team played well today.” He was satisfied the way the boys performed collectively. There were fewer errors. The only concern now is Rupinder’s injury. He limped off the field in the final quarter.
“They were better than previous matches and I hope they will carry the momentum to the next game,” Marijne said. He is happy to face New Zealand, who are ranked No 8, than the top-ranked Aussies.
“If you have to choose then of course New Zealand would be our choice.” If India beat the Kiwis, they will reach a third consecutive final.
“It was heartening to see India going past England in the last two minutes. This shows they are strong mentally,” said Marijne. Though possession early on was a worry, the coach was happy to see more circle penetration. “’Defending was much better and unforced errors decreased. We didn’t do this to only play New Zealand but we needed to improve our performance.”
Results: Men bt England 4-3. To face New Zealand in semifinal. Women face Australia in semifinal on Thursday.