India’s performance graph at the Hockey World League (HWL2017) Final plummeted further in Bhubaneswar on Monday when the Asian champions ended the pool stage winless and were almost schooled by Germany in a 2-0 defeat.
However, India coach Sjoerd Marijne remained unfazed and appeared upbeat about a possible quarterfinal against Rio Olympics runners-up Belgium.
Germany gave a tutorial on possession hockey and how to read opponents as they finished top of Pool B undefeated with seven points, followed by England (4 points), Australia (3) and India (1).
The bottom-ranked hosts are expected to meet the Red Lions in the quarterfinals, as the Belgians are likely to top Pool A, in which the last two matches will be played at the Kalinga Stadium on Tuesday.
In their most disappointing performance of the tournament so far, India appeared over-reliant on counters, which was smartly studied by the Germans who did not allow Manpreet Singh & Co. any room in the midfield to construct moves.
The visitors got on the scoreboard in the 17th minute through skipper Martin Haner’s penalty-corner strike and then doubled their lead three minutes later with a field goal from Mats Grambusch to add the cushion.
Germany fortified their defence after that but India didn’t make much change in their strategy and kept looking for counters, which their astute opponents analysed and blocked with dogged man-to-man marking.
The German strategy will not go unnoticed by Belgium, who have made astonishing progress in world hockey over the last five years, but Marijne insisted they are beatable.
“We will do better in the next match. If you want to win tournaments, you have to beat every team. We respect Belgium a lot but here everybody can beat everyone. So why can’t we beat Belgium,” he concluded.
At the same time, the Dutchman admitted that they were a distant second on the day.
“We lost the ball too many times. Germany overall played extremely disciplined hockey with a lot of ball possession. We had more circle penetrations, more PCs (four against two). But we have to convert our chances,” Marijne concluded.