India 0 Belgium 3
Lin Dan after winning the men’s badminton title said, “If five golds go to China, it only demonstrates one thing, the Chinese team made their best personal efforts,” he said. “As players we all have responsibility to achieve the best results and defeat our rivals. We don’t need to consider anything else.”
It’s a philosophy that the Indian hockey would do good to consider.
So after five Pool B matches, we are at the bottom of the table with zero points; our worst performance in any Olympics.
Did things go wrong against Belgium? No, they didn’t. They just played into the hands of the Belgians. Worse, whatever, the Belgians gave us, we refused to accept it. And it wasn’t less. Eight chances in front of goal with 28 circle penetrations and a possession of 50 percent. Don’t forget the two penalty corners. If Bharat Chettri saved seven out of ten shots, the Belgian goalkeeper Vincent Vanash was brilliant with nine out of nine, a hundred percent job.
Now after a 3-0 demolition by the Belgians, India will play South Africa for the 11th/12th spot. Predictions for that match are not being taken!!!
Things are not right with this team. No one in the team has said anything. But the play on the field demonstrates an individual streak that puts down the very thesis of a collective team sport. Sardar throughout the match made a single error; a miss pass.
The forward line is an insult to the very presence of having a player like Sardar in the team. Out of the 28 circle penetrations, a minimum of 15 were not trapped cleanly while the rest were simply thrown away in looking for personal glory. Sunil, Tushar, Chandi had chances in pushing the ball onto the feet of the Belgian defence but they looked for shots at the goalkeeper. They look a shadow of the team that was seen at Ordos, China and the qualifiers in Delhi. Agreed, the Olympics are a different stage but such a drop in form and skill has never been seen before.
Indian coach Michael Nobbs was last of the field and was seen consoling Sardar Singh, the one champion in that team whose play has not flagged in a single match. The coach did say the seniors were not performing. But you can count the seniors on your finger tips. Tushar Khandekar, Shivendra Singh, Sandeep Singh, Ignace Tirkey, Gurbaz Singh and the Indian captain Bharat Chettri.
Belgium scored in the 15th minute when Jerome Dekeyser sent in a rasping shot from the top of the circle. After their first penalty corner in the 22nd minute, India were distinctly unlucky not to get an equalizer; they hit the post and the Vincent brought off some amazing saves. Four shots in the space of 45 seconds!!
At the break, India was strong but not yet with an equalizer.
Belgium punished them in the 47th minute when an attack found the leg of an Indian defender. Instead of looking at the ball, the defenders looked at the umpire, New Zealand’s Nigel Iggo who had pointed for a penalty corner but didn’t blow the whistle. Iggo gave the advantage and Belgium powered a shot through the Indian legs to lead 2-0.
Things seemed impossible as mentally the Indians were dying. Even if the legs powered on, the mind was in a mess as another defeat seemed imminent. A second penalty corner didn’t change anything as a Sandeep flick was brilliantly saved by the Belgian goalkeeper. With three minutes left, Belgium closed the match after Tom Boon caught the Indian defence napping with a reverse shot.
At the media conference, the Indian captain Bharat Chettri didn’t have much to say except: “I really cannot understand what’s happened with the team. I think we are not mentally there.” Michael Nobbs didn’t turn up and instead assistant coach Mohammed Riaz explained that the defence and the forwards have collectively failed.