India 2 South Africa 3
It was a story of missed chances, below par play and a defeatist mindset trying to get positive under the most adverse of circumstances. One literally felt sorry for the boys. After the 2-3 loss to South Africa which plunged the Indian team to an all-time low at the Olympics, 12th spot, Indian captain Bharat Chettri admitted: “We are not good enough for the Olympics.” It was a statement of frustration; it was also a statement that hid the real problems of the team - Issues that concerned unity and coaching.
South Africa was more systematic in their approach. They build their attacks while the Indians played like amateur plunderers. They did attack but too much ball play robbed them off the initiative they created. Danish Mujtaba did everything but release the ball in time. Players like him think they are playing the Nehru Cup or the MCC.
Shivendra and Tushar were once again found wanting. But you did get the feeling that the efforts were not hundred percent. Something is bothering Shivendra and the Olympics was not the right stage to showcase it.
After South Africa took the lead through Andrew Cronje, India pushed through the middle but too much play without asking players to go in a line wasted the efforts. Time and again, they broke through but chances were frittered as players wanted to be on the scoreboard. Sunil had the goalkeeper in front. But both the times, he shot straight at the pads instead of trying an angular shot.
Finally, India got the equalizer when they earned their 1st penalty corner. Sandeep Singh’s flick powered its way through the goalkeeper’s pads. It was Sandeep’s second goal in the tournament.
Timothy Drummond pushed the ball under Sreejesh to give South Africa the lead. And then it seemed curtains when Norris-Jones reverse hit the ball into the Indian goal. India threw everything at the South African goal but despite Dharmvir cutting the scores to 2-3, they really couldn’t connect.
It’s been a tournament of missed chances and playing below potential. It also will remain a tournament where India’s senior players, according to sources in the team, intentionally played below par. Nobody wants to talk about it; officially though. Whether the coaching staff retain their jobs would remain to be seen.