London: Roelant Oltmans wasn’t wrong. The India coach’s pre-script titled “The Tournament Begins Now” remained true to its nature on Tuesday. Netherlands scored 3, India scored 1. Both secured the No 1 and the No 2 spots, respectively, from Pool A, but it was more than apparent who the boss was.

“It may be strange to say after the big win against Pakistan, but the tournament begins tomorrow,” Oltmans told The Field 24 hours before meeting the Oranje.

The full-press nature of the Dutch game in the first 15 minutes produced two goals. India were ragged, to say the least. Netherlands reigned supreme, produced a third goal in second quarter and were on their way to stay undefeated with four out of four wins.

Akashdeep’s neat collection, deft control and clean finish in the 28th minute kept India in it: 3-1 at half-time left a lot of scope for a comeback, but it never happened.

India forced to rely on counters

India shifted to wait-and-counter tactics in the last two quarters, and while the forwards threatened on more than one occasion, Dutch goalkeeper Pirmin Blaak set up a fortress in front of the post and his razor-sharp reflexes assured it wasn’t breached.

It wasn’t that the Indian goalkeepers had an off day. Akash Chikte may have conceded thrice in 30 minutes, but it could have been worse had he not made a couple of brilliant saves. Not to forget, he and Vikas Dahiya are still getting the hang of international standards.

India will now play the third-placed team in Pool A, Malaysia in the quarters while the Netherlands take on fourth-placed China.

The game on Tuesday was played under the shadow of an off-field controversy.

The previous day, former captain Sardar Singh was summoned by a police station in Leeds for questioning. It was after a complaint filed by British-Indian hockey player Ashpal Bhogal, who claims to be Sardar’s fiancée and had last year accused him in India of rape as well as physical and mental torture.

An off-field controversy

To make matters worse, the International Hockey Federation distanced itself from Narinder Batra’s Facebook post, where he called England a “safe heave for fraudsters” and politicised the police complaint against Sardar.

The possible aftereffects of that showed in Netherlands’s first goal just two minutes into the game, when the wily old Sardar was easily foxed by Thierry Brinkman. But that possibility was denied outright by captain Manpreet Singh.

“The other two goals were also result of somebody’s mistake. That doesn’t mean we hold any particular player responsible for it. It’s a team game,” the skipper insisted.

“I don’t think yesterday’s events had an effect on Sardar. For me, he played a good game and was pretty calm.”

Where it also hurt India was that Harmanpreet Singh failed to make any of India’s three penalty corners count. He has so far converted thrice in the tournament and is in reasonably good form, but failed to deliver against the best team in Pool B.

Time for the knockouts

Oltmans reserved a cheeky reply to that question. “The more important part of the tournament is still to come,” the coach said.

It’s a sad admission, but a defeat against the Netherlands was expected. It’s that mental block between the top three and next three in the world that India (No 6) need to get over. The old warhorse in Oltmans knows it and possibly that’s why, and because India had a quarter-final place under the wraps, he talked about knockouts ahead of the Netherlands clash.

“That [knockouts] is different dynamics for the tournament, but we are looking forward to it. We are in good shape, especially the attacking part. That is something we are aiming for, work hard for and it’s great to see it happening,” Oltmans had said on Monday talking to The Field.

Talking about dynamics, one team that will definitely want to believe Oltmans is Pakistan.

Despite just one win and three defeats, Pakistan sneaked into the quarter-finals on Tuesday, thanks to Canada holding Scotland to a 1-1 draw. And if Oltmans’s “different dynamics” take any sort of shape, London could be hosting another India vs Pakistan game in less than a month, and the Pakistanis would hope the script goes the cricket way, after a defeat against India

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