On paper, Germany are the strongest team in Pool B of the Hockey World League Final. Despite being ranked fifth in the World, the Rio Olympics bronze medalist were favorites to top the group. India, ranked sixth in the world, were always going to be severely tested by the Germans in the final game of the group stage.
At the end of an hour, Germany delivered a masterclass performance against India as they beat them 2-0 in the final game of the group stage at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar. Goals by Martin Haner and Mats Grambusch in the second quarter ensured an easy win in the end.
India looked clueless as Germany dominated the game till the final hooter. Even though India are going to play the quarter-finals, a journey beyond that looks highly unlikely for the Asia Cup winners given their current form. Here are some of the talking points from the match:
Against Australia, India showed flair. Against England, India looked depleted. After a day’s rest, against Germany, India looked clueless.
The India players held on to the ball for too long and would eventually, end up losing it to the Germans, who were on their toes throughout the game. There were far too many loose balls, which also resulted in Germany scoring the second goal.
Germany made optimum use of the space available and continued to infiltrate India’s circle. They had made 14 circle entries throughout the game compared to India’s 12. Germany also enjoyed 64% possession in India’s half throughout the game. In the first quarter itself Germany had 76% of possession, which saw India chasing after them in their own half.
A defensive error resulted in Germany getting a penalty corner, which they converted to take a 1-0 lead. Haner’s ground flick stroke went past goalkeeper Akash Chikte.
Difference in style
The lead was doubled within a matter of minutes as Grambusch struck the ball from the circle, which was deflected by Birendra Lakra’s stick for a field goal. India lost the game within the first two quarters of the match.
India Coach Sjoerd Marijne’s philosophy of give-and-go hockey was not on display. According to him, a player should not control the ball for more than three seconds.
However, on Monday, the India players did not want to let go of the ball. Even if they did manage to retrieve the ball, they did not know what to do with it. Most of India’s passes went to waste with the ball even landing outside the pitch. Marijne was looking clearly flustered on the sidelines. The players are clearly yet to adapt to the new coach’s one-touch style of play.
No plan B
After scoring two goals, Germany looked more relaxed. They were happy to chase the ball for a bit as India began their bid to stage a comeback. Against England, India did manage to score two goals in the fourth quarter, despite losing 3-2.
However, that was not to be. Germany had studied India’s strength and made sure that hosts remained without a win. They were alert when India forwards Gurjant Singh, Mandeep Singh and Akashdeep Singh began their run on the counter-attack. Technically, Germany were superior than India and executed their plan to perfection.
“We created chances but didn’t execute them and they (Germany) knew how to execute their opportunities. One team have more ball possession but what matters is execution. It’s about who scores most goals. It’s about winning the match. We didn’t start fast. In the beginning of the first half we committed plenty of technical errors. Once that happens, it is really difficult to come back into rhythm,” said Marijne after the match.
India’s inability to stitch together attacks hurt them in the end. Also, with plan A clearly failing and no plan B in the bag, India were bound to lose this game. India had no answers against Germany’s brilliant overall play and for now, Asia’s best have been found wanting on the world stage.