India 1 Korea 4
After being thrashed 4-1 by Korea with two goals coming in the last couple of minutes, India are well on course to their worst ever finish in an Olympic Games. At this stage in Pool B, they have lost four consecutive matches. It was yet again a below par performance with the only stand out players being Sardar Singh, Ignace Tirkey, SV Sunil and Baljit Singh Chandi.
The Koreans were ahead in the 6th minute off a superb penalty corner conversion by Jong Hyun Jang. In the 10th minute, Baljit Singh Chandi received a picture perfect pass from Dharanvir and deflected it into goal for the equalizer. The match moves both ways with India having the edge in circle penetrations but the left flank played as if the goal post had shifted to the corner flag position. One lost count of the times, Shivendra Singh mistimed or didn’t trap the ball. If he had the ball, he invariably gave it away.
Mohammed Riaz, the assistant coach, who came in place of Michael Nobbs at the media conference, said, “It was down to missed chances and that is what is costing us dear.”
India kept missing with Sardar building up the moves. Once even Tushar Khandekar atoned for his sins by placing a perfect ball across the Korean goal but Sandeep Singh and Uthappa couldn’t bring down their stick in time.
Korea broke the deadlock in the 59th minute when they created a penalty corner by playing the ball onto an Indian defender’s leg. Hyun Woo’s flick was powerful enough for the Indian defender on the line to duck away. India had three penalty corners in the second half. Sandeep can consider himself unlucky as one his flicks hit the cross piece. But two flicks were dreadful, the third bouncing thrice before the goalkeeper padded it away. For a player who said ‘I will score in every match’ the Olympics have been a complete failure. When asked about his form, Nobbs didn’t have anything to say except, “I will have a chat with him.”
For India, it’s not the circle penetrations that have been the worry. It’s the finishing and the defence line that has caved under pressure. Nobbs believes the youngsters have played to their potential but the seniors have failed. “I think the senior players need to have a look at themselves. If they can’t perform, they need to move on.”
As India looked for a second equalizer, the gaps at the back were successfully exploited by the Koreans. Lee Seung had enough space on the top of the circle to shoot into the corner for Korea to bring India to their knees as they led 3-1.
With two minutes left, Korea earned a penalty corner which they converted through Hyun Woo to walk off with a 4-1 score line.
Indian captain Bharat Chettri was emotional at the conference, saying, “We missed too many chances and this is not what we have come for. I cannot explain this performance. We are missing chances, not passing well and not doing anything right. I don’t know what has happened to us.”
Under a barrage of questions from the media, Chettri pointed to Michael Nobbs who was sitting in the media room and asked him to take the question or rather the criticism.
Nobbs replied: “This team is a work in progress and I would like to apologise to the Indian people for this display. The seniors have to pull their weight in the team and if they can’t, they better move on.”