India’s spot in the Gold Cup final was as good as confirmed early in the Holland-Germany match,when the Dutch went 2-0 up at half time. The hosts could have afforded to experiment in the subsequent match against New Zealand,and they did,on their way to a 3-2 win.
However,the not-so-impressive final scoreline all the more unconvincing when compared to the Dutchs 7-1 annihilation of Germany is a cause for concern. For long,India have had issues in the opening and closing few minutes. This tournament,however,has seen India go on the offensive from the word go and Saturday was no different. India took the lead in the sixth minute through a Rajpal Singh hit on the rebound after Sandeep Singhs shot went straight in without any deflection.
But the Kiwis were in no mood to relent. They kept attacking and earned four penalty corners in each half. Their efforts paid when they equalised through Nicholas Wilson in the 40th minute after a lack of coordination in the Indian defence.
India went ahead again in the 55th minute,again through Rajpal,but the Kiwis fought back and levelled in the 62nd minute through Richard Petherick. The Indians were guilty of some basic lapses that can be dangerous against tougher opponents.
The architect of the decider,much like in the 2003 Asia Cup final against Pakistan,was Ignace Tirkey. With three minutes to go,the midfielder got the ball just inside the striking circle off a counter-attack,took a swipe and failed to connect in the first instance,took another backhand shot and slammed the ball in past the entire New Zealand defence,including goalkeeper Kyle Pontifex.
India now play Holland in the final,a prospect they would do well to ponder over,given the way the Dutch ripped apart the German defence on Saturday.
They scored five goals in the second half and within 14 minutes. Jeroen Hertzberger and Jolie Wouter got a brace each,while Jonker Constantijn,Lucas Judge and Robbert Kemperman scored one apiece. Germany pulled one back through Christopher Wesley in the 66th minute.