Harjeet Singh might have played like a real leader to guide India to a 5-3 win over England at the men’s Junior Hockey World Cup here, but the soft-spoken skipper credited the win to the entire team, saying the hosts played “simple hockey”.
Harjeet was in total control of the midfield, snatching balls and creating chances from counter attacks for his strikers, as India virtually assured their place in the quarterfinals.
“We played simple hockey today. We just did simple, simple things. We have to play according to the opposition. England is a good team so we raised our bar,” Harjeet told reporters at the post-match press conference.
“Today from the beginning we had good energy. All the players performed their duties on the field.
“After scoring the first goal we kept on putting pressure on them (England) by scoring more goals. Jaise coach sir humesha kehte hain ke murde ko itne keel gardo ke who aur uthne hi nahi paye (as the coach sir always say when a coffin is buried, keep on putting as much nail as possible so that there is no possibility of him getting up from the grave),” he said.
India didn’t have a great start as it was England who drew the first blood in the 10th minute but Harjeet said there was no pressure on the team after conceding the goal and they were confident of their victory.
“We didn’t have any pressure after conceding the first goal because we were confident. We knew there was plenty of time left and in hockey 2-3 minutes is big,” he said.
India’s head coach Harendra Singh was satisfied with his wards performance but warned the players to control their emotions on the turf.
Leading 5-1, India gave away too many fouls, which resulted in two yellow and two green cards in the last 10 minutes and in the process the hosts conceded two unnecessary goals.
“They are playing World Cup and you have to accept it that there will be anxiety which was there in the first 20 minutes of the opening match (against Canada). You have to accept that they are youngsters who wait 4 years for a big tournament so excitement will always be there,” Harendra said.
“The fouls were unnecessary. We need to control our emotions. Better that it has happened here but we can’t afford such mistakes in the knockout stage,” Harendra said.
Harendra, however, was satisfied with the overall performance of the team.
“We took a very important step today in terms of tactics as well as technique. We scored field goals, tried variations in penalty corners, counter attacked. Day by day improvement is evidently visible. I would like to congratulate the entire team,” the coach said.
Indian men’s senior team chief coach Roelant Oltmans was full of praise for Harjeet, who according to him was the player of the match instead of Mandeep Singh.
“Harjeet was outstanding. He was the leader and he showed that on the pitch. He was setting up counter attacks. For me he was the man of the match,” said Oltmans, who is the manager of the junior side for the ongoing World Cup.
Oltmans too was mighty pleased with the performance of the India colts, barring the last 10 minutes of the game where they committed to many fouls.
“We always try to play the style which suits these guys. We were 0-1 down which people didn’t like but I liked it because all of a sudden it becomes a demanding job and what they did in the last 10 minutes was outstanding,” the legendary Dutchman said.
“We put so much pressure on them which created so many opportunities and they way they continued in the same vein in the second half, at least in the first 20 minutes, is heartening to see.
“But we gave away a few unnecessary cards and gave away 2 goals in the last 10 minutes but if we take first 20 minutes of the second half and last 10 minutes of the first half we were brilliant. That is the hockey I enjoy.
“The cards were completely unnecessary. The tackles were half down on the pitch and it occurred because of over excitement. But this is part of the learning process. These are lessons from this game which we take along in the next game,” Oltmans added.