Throughout the Indian team’s ebbs and flows this year, coach Harendra Singh has never questioned its ability. It isn’t just the case of him saying he believes in his players’ potential, one feels that he actually does. For, he always points out what they could have done better; never has said that they are incapable of doing something.
After Saturday’s 5-1 thrashing of Canada, which helped India directly qualified for the quarter-finals, he said he was a “happy man” but not “very happy.” His target, he said, was to beat Canada 6-0. But India did well in the fourth quarter of the match to score four goals and clinch the quarter-final spot.
“Actual tournament starts with the next game,” said Harendra after the match. Winning a historic medal, he said, was uncertain. But he believes that his players would give their best in the knockout matches.
He, on Saturday, reiterated one of his pet peeves: India’s finishing. Of course, they racked up five goals. But India could’ve had a larger margin of victory – albeit unrequired – had they converted their chances in the second and third quarters.
“Final pass we are missing as we were running for the goal. We have to wait for our moment, can’t rush towards the ball. I think the first half, we did too much running. The final execution, we were too much of a hurry.”
India removed their goalkeeper PR Sreejesh, three minutes before the finish to have an extra attacking option. Of the move, he said, “I should have done it much before. It was decided that in the 8th minute we will remove, but we missed that somehow. Irrespective of the result, we had decided we will take out the keeper (shortly before the end).”
He’d said before the match that one of his targets was to keep a clean sheet against Canada. “I feel bad about conceding a goal,” he said. “By conceding you give away the momentum to opponents. It puts pressure on the (future) opponents when they see the team has kept clean sheet.”
About the knockout stages, the coach said, “In my room, I have already written who we will play in the quarter-final and who in the semi-final. A four-nation tournament has finished. The World Cup starts now.”