GOLD COAST: If match statistics could win matches, India would have been undisputed kings against New Zealand on Friday. They kept marauding the rival territory in waves, kept egging for goals but in the end lost 2-3 in the first semifinal on a balmy evening here.
Consider this. India had 32 circle penetrations as against New Zealand’s 14; nine penalty corners to four. Yet, when the hooter sounded, Indians stood vanquished.
The first period was sprinkled with errors that led to easy goals — something that has been dogging India for a while. Even the coach, Sjoerd Marijne, was peeved at the fragile defence.
Hugo Inglis scored the first and then Stephen Jenesse made it 2-0 for New Zealand. India kept chasing the game. Harmanpreet scored two but India could not conjure a miracle.
Marijne was livid. “If you see the match again, we should have won in the first five or six minutes,” he said. “We got opportunities, we got PCs. I think the story so far is that we have enough PCs, we create enough chances but we don’t score. That’s it. The game’s about scoring and we don’t do that enough.”
In the final two quarters, India were a transformed team. They played higher and kept attacking in waves. The Dutch coach agreed it was rather psychological that India could not make a comeback.
“Yeah (thinks a lot)... it’s important to see the reality of it all. In the last five months we hadn’t created so many chances as now. That’s going well. I am happy with that. But we have taken a step back when it comes to giving opponents easy opportunities to score against us. Sometimes you take a step back to make two forward. That’s what I believe in. This is the first time that I have seen so many defensive errors. The team is very disappointed.”
India, however, can have a consolation bronze for which they have to fight against England. But these matches are tricky because when you aim for gold, other medals don’t matter. Marijne has taken some positives too. There have been traces of improvement.
Things have been more cohesive as the Games approached and against New Zealand, a favourable result was within reach.
Looking forward to other challenges this season, Marijne said, “We improved as a team every match. I was especially happy with our performance against England. We did struggle a bit but it’s also important to keep winning even when you struggle and we did that. The problem in this tournament was we gave away many cheap goals. Players will have to learn from this.”
Results: Men’s semifinals: India lost to New Zealand 2-3, Australia bt England 2-1.