The early ouster of India from medal contention may have robbed the event of much local support but the 2013 Junior Hockey World Cup has nevertheless been entertaining. The event which started with a high scoring 7-4 win for Korea over Canada has so far seen 167 goals scored in 34 games,an average of nearly 5 a match — so far. The action has consistently been end to end.
Much of this of course has been to the fact that the tournament is an age group one. Prior to the tournament hockey Indias director had prophesised as much. At the junior level you are going to see some really good play but also some really poor pieces of action,Roelant Oltmans Indias high performance director had said. Thus for every spectacular goal – probably German Christopher Ruhrs solo effort past the Pakistani defense – there have simply been too many lose balls floating around. In the Australia-Germany quarterfinals which the latter won 4-3,Australia twice conceded as a result of their own poor passes. The Burras were even more profligate in their group encounter against Spain but the weaker team wasnt able to make the chances count.
Adding to the intensity of the tournament has been the number of comebacks. The opening match saw Canada fight back from 7-1 down to finish 7-4. France whove made the final for the first time,won their quarterfinal against Belgium 5-4 after being 4-2 and their semifinal against Malaysia after trailing 1-0 until the last ten minutes. French coach Gael Foulard says what set his side apart was their mental toughness.
Indeed coaches across the board agree that the ability to handle pressure plays a big role at the age group level.
Loss of confidence and form happens not just between games but in the course of a single match. India in their crucial last league game against Korea,went from dominating the game to suddenly coming undone in the course of a few minutes.
Inderpal Sehmbi,assistant coach of Canada says its simply a case of young players unable to deal with a challenging new experience. At the senior level because players have played many matches and gone through the same situations many times before,they are able to stay calm but a teenager rapidly switches between phases of excitement and panic very easily. According to Sehmbi once a goal is conceded a bunch of others follow and when a side starts scoring,it always feels as if another is around the corner.
(Jonathan is a senior correspondent in Delhi).
jonathan. selvaraj @expressindia.com