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Out of disgust, Roelant Oltmans threw a bib in the dugout. With less than five minutes left for India to find an equaliser and force a shoot-out, Ramandeep Singh tried to dribble past a couple of Malaysian defenders through the centre instead of passing it to a free man either side of him. Expectedly, he was blocked and another Indian move ended with nothing.
You never really see Oltmans show emotions on the touchline. It’s rarer to see him lose his temper. But India’s performance on Thursday had left many frustrated. They eventually lost 3-2 to Malaysia in the quarterfinals of the Hockey World League Oltmans and his players will point out a controversial umpiring decision in the final quarter, which led to Malaysia getting a penalty corner. Razie Rahim duly converted it to give Malaysia the lead with just 12 minutes left to play. But India had several opportunies before and after that goal to wrap up the match. India began slowly.
A surprised Oltmans said the team was ‘nervous’, because of which they could not execute the gameplan. The idea was the pass the ball around quickly, not allowing the Malaysians to settle. Instead, the Indian players ran aimlessly.
Very often in big matches, India have resorted to this age-old technique that Oltmans has been trying to get rid off. Against India, Malaysia tend to pack their half while defending, leaving very little space for the attackers to find space. In their attempt to dribble past the defenders, Indian players kept hitting the wall. “They (Malaysia) are a team that is crowded around their own 25 (metre line). So carrying the ball does not work. They (Indian players) know, understand and discussed it. But you still need to execute it,” Oltmans said.
The below-par performance and some sloppy defending ruined India’s hopes. They conceded as many as seven penalty corners, three of which were converted by Malaysia through Rahim (19th, 48th minutes) and Tengku Tajuddin. India’s goals came from the sticks of Ramandeep Singh (24th, 26th).
Ramandeep had a chance to complete his hattrick in the final minute of the game. He was unmarked in inside the circle but his deflection in front of an open Malaysian goal was wide by inches.
By virtue of this win, Malaysia have qualified for next year’s World Cup to be held in India. For India, it is their second defeat against Malaysia in little less than two months. Roelant Oltmans’ men had earlier lost 0-1 to the same opponents in the Azlan Shah Cup last month.
Malaysia will face reigning Olympic champions and world number one Argentina in Saturday’s semifinal. Argentina had earlier in the day defeated Pakistan in the first quarterfinal match. India, meanwhile, will face Pakistan in the 5th-8th place playoff match on Saturday.