A dejected India coach Jose Brasa. Picture by Prem Singh
New Delhi: The Indian hockey team once again failed to live up to the expectations of the passionate fans, going down 2-3 to England in their penultimate pool B match of the Hero Honda hockey World Cup on Saturday.
With the win, England became the first team to enter the semi-finals from pool B with 12 points from four matches. Australia are favourites to take the second spot from the group although Spain too have an outside chance of making the grade.
Down 0-3 by the 47th minute at the Major Dhyan Chand Stadium, India added some excitement to the encounter when they scored two quick goals in the 54th and 57th minutes through Gurwinder Singh Chandi and Rajpal Singh, respectively, but it wasnt enough to take the match away from the European champions, who scored through James Tindall (20th) and Ashley Jackson (42nd and 47th). The partisan crowd lived in false hope for some time before their enthusiasm died down.
This was Indias third defeat in four matches and they will not figure in the World Cup semi-finals for the ninth consecutive time. The last time India made the semi-finals was in 1975 when they bagged their only world title in Kuala Lumpur.
Saturdays defeat was yet another repetition of Indias inability to bring cohesion into their attacks in front of the rival goalmouth. Even an experienced player like Rajpal was no different. He worked hard in the midfield but faltered in execution. Early in the second half, he had an open goal in front but completely messed it up. At the fag end too, when the deficit was again just a goal, Rajpal muffed a clear chance. That first miss was surely the turning point of the match since England, who were leading 1-0 at that time, scored two quick goals in the next few minutes.
The World Cup at home was also a pointer to the fact that India are lagging way behind the leaders of the game on the world stage. All India have managed so far is the win against Pakistan. It did satisfy the fans but in reality, did not take the team anywhere.
To say that Indias lack of class was evident against England would not exactly be an exaggeration. As India coach Jose Brasa himself said, England have been building a core group of players for the 2012 London Olympics. They looked better than India in all departments of the game.
In speed and fitness, India remained far behind most of their rivals.
If the home team looked a ragged lot against the Australians, they were no better against Spain and England. Brasa admitted it when he said: We are yet not prepared to play against the top quality teams. We have tried to develop ourselves in the last seven months. It will surely take time.
The defence also remained a constant source of trouble for India. Sandeep Singh and Dhananjay Mahadik were touted as match winners but neither could they score from penalty corners nor prevent soft goals.