India’s 43-year wait for a semifinal appearance in the Hockey World Cup only got longer after the hosts lost to Netherlands 1-2 in the last quarterfinal encounter in Bhubaneswar on Thursday.

While the young Indian side, with an average age of 23, put up a strong fight against the three-time champions, but their errors in the defence and poor decision making in the opponent’s striking circle let them down in the final analysis.

India began well by drawing first blood in the 12th minute through Akashdeep Singh but were caught napping in the dying seconds of the first quarter and were clearly the second best side in the second half.

Former India skipper Sardar Singh, who was watching the men in blue play from the packed stands for the first time, felt that this Indian side squandered a golden opportunity to beat an “average” Dutch side and blamed the team’s lack of energy after half time, trying to play fancy hockey and silly mistakes like getting a yellow card in the last 10 minutes.

“We began well in the first quarter showing the right kind of energy to win such match. But in the third and fourth quarter the team was relatively flat. The (problem) other area was indiscipline. In modern hockey, getting a card and that too a yellow card can hurt the team’s prospects very much. You can’t make such mistakes in a quarterfinal and get away with it,” said Sardar.

India played the last seven minutes of the match with 10 men after Amit Rohidas was shown an yellow card for a rash tackle and that meant that they never really could push for an equaliser after Mink van der Weerden put the Dutch ahead in the 50th minute.

“I think to win knock out matches, players need to control their emotions. You also need to put in an additional effort on the field while sticking to the plan and executing them. But in this match, we were guilty of allowing too many turnovers (to the Dutch) by trying to play some fancy hockey. Till we were maintaining the structure and playing according to plan, we were competitive,” said Sardar, adding, Netherlands’ experienced midfield of Seve van Ass, captain Billy Bakker and others controlled the game pretty well in the second half.

The 32-year-old felt that despite the disappointment of losing out on the semi-final spot, it was important for India to continue with the good work being put in the last few years and focus on the Tokyo Olympic qualification.

“After losing the match all will be disappointed. But I think the team performed pretty well and we should stick to the same coaching staff. Now we should shift all our focus to the Olympic qualification tournaments and start preparing for it from the word go,” he added.

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