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India test-fire 15

Hosts open Olympic Qualifying campaign by outclassing minnows Singapore; concede just one goal

Written by Uthra G. Chaturvedi | New Delhi |
February 19, 2012 1:36:35 am

Before the India-Singapore match,Dilip Tirkey had said favourites India would score at least 15 goals against the minnows in their Olympic qualifiers opener. Former India coach and now Ukraine women’s advisor Jose Brasa went a step ahead,claiming every one of the 16 players in action on the day would score one apiece.

Tirkey’s prediction was spot on.

Saturday’s tournament opener was never meant to be a real test for India. For the team,and for coach Michael Nobbs,it was always expected to be a testing ground for working out the combinations,ironing out the deficiencies and reaffirming their favourites’ tag in this competition. While India won 15-1,those targets were partially achieved. Ironing out the deficiencies,though,remains an unfinished agenda.

The Indians spent the first ten minutes running circles around the Singapore side,warming up for the goal fest that was to come. Initially,there were three shots on the goal but Yuvraj Walmiki missed two of the sitters. Nobbs started with a three-man attack,perhaps knowing well that going all out on attack against the weak opposition was unnecessary. Also Sarwanjit Singh was played as a withdrawn forward. Even the half line was staggered,with Sardar Singh being in the middle and flanked by Danish Mujtaba and Birendra Lakra. Kothajit Singh on the left was pulled back to double up in both the midfield and the backline,where Ignace Tirkey and Sandeep Singh started.

However,all possible formations and combinations were rendered unnecessary once the floodgates opened. It started with Gurvinder Singh Chandi in the 10th minute — set up by Tushar Khandker from the left — and continued till the 70th minute,when Birendra Lakra rounded off the 15-goal tally.

The game followed a pattern: Singapore would start from the half line before India took possession,ran up the opposition half and scored a goal. The ball returned to the half line,only for the entire process to be followed all over again,15 times in total. India were up 6-0 at half time,with two goals apiece by Chandi and Shivendra Singh. Mujtaba and Sardar scored one each.

With the match restricted to just one half of the field,there was hardly any work for captain Bharat Chhetri under the bar. Even Sardar Singh was often seen inside the circle,and even Sandeep was occasionally present near Singapore’s 25-yard line. The all-out attack meant there was no one left with Chhetri at the back,and that resulted in Singapore getting their lone shot at the goal. Enrico Marican hit a powerful shot from the middle of the top of the D to get his name on the scoresheet.

After change of ends,Chandi and Mujtaba scored one more apiece,SV Sunil scored a brace,Khandker,Sandeep,Yuvraj,Birendra Lakra and Uthappa scored one each.

Rough edges

For India,youngsters SK Uthappa and Kothajit Singh both played. While Uthappa reiterated his big-game temperament,scoring a goal and setting up two more as the left-out,Kothajit was unsure and inconsistent. If Shivendra Singh appeared getting back the poaching form that once saw him rated among the world’s best strikers,Yuvraj Walmiki’s ‘being at the right place at the right time but failing to score’ is getting a tad worrisome. SV Sunil’s hard work as a right-out was commendable but his inability to complete the moves inside the circle needs to improve.

Nobbs not satisfied

The biggest area of concern,though is the penalty corner. India earned six and failed to convert five. “We were playing at maybe our 70 per cent,we can still get better. I am never satisfied,really,we are not even close to where we want to be . We want to be ruthless regardless of the opposition,” Nobbs said after the match,but added that he doesn’t expect a similar scoreline against Italy in the second game on Sunday.

The Results: Canada beat Italy 9-0; France beat Poland 2-1.

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