Favourites India had a narrow escape against Spain in the quarterfinals of Junior Hockey World Cup but team manager Roelant Oltmans and team manager Harendra Singh feel that the hosts were deserving winners.
“If you can win matches on luck then I feel we would have won in 2005. I compliment my players. Despite trailing they kept calm and composed heads. They did not do hara-kiri which is generally associated with Indian hockey,” Harendra said at the post-match press conference.
“I don’t believe in luck, it is their (players) hard work which is producing results.”
Oltmans, who is the chief coach of the senior side and is currently with the junior side as the manager, agreed with Harendra’s views.
“After every game, there is room for improvement. But in this phase of the tournament it’s all about winning. It is very simple. We did many things good today and there are couple of things we could have done better,” the Dutchman said.
Oltmans said they made some changes in their strategy in the second half and the players executed their plans perfectly after the change of ends.
“We changed the structure little bit at half-time. We tried to intercept the ball early and tried to put pressure on their defence and in the process earned penalty corners and made circle penetrations,” he said.
“The players executed the plans very well in the second half. They (Spain) played a defensive game and tried to come out with counter attacks. They have very skilful players. But we did a good job in our defence today,” he added.
Harendra too said they expected a tough fight from Spain, whom they have defeated twice in the recent past.
“Spain’s performance was on expected lines. They are very nippy and skilful. If you look at the shots on goal there weren’t many but after taking the lead they defended in numbers. But at the end of the day, results matter,” he said.
India earned as many as nine penalty corners in the game and utilised just two. Asked Harendra about the conversion rate, he agreed it is a matter of concern.
“Penalty corner conversion is a concern but it just not the drag-flicker who is at fault. There are three main elements which come into play during a penalty corner, injector, stopped and drag-flicker who come at the last. The turf is also a little bumpy here. It sometimes can favour you and also act against you.
“But at the end of the day, we won the match by a dragflick,” Harendra said.
“We shouldn’t forget that we were playing in the quarterfinals where top eight teams of the world qualified. We should also need to respect our opponent.”
India’s second goal from their eighth penalty corner created a bit of a controversy after the onfield umpire awarded the set piece, accusing the Spanish goalkeeper for deliberately kicking out the ball.
“Umpires take a decision and we have no opportunity here for referrals. If you look at the game, there is only one team which deserved to win,” Oltmans said.
“One of the Spanish player told me after the match that umpire felt that the goalkeeper kicked the ball deliberately over the backline but they said it was not deliberate,” he added.
Spain coach Roger Pallarols, however, feels the decision was little unfair.
“I would like to congratulate India but we have the feeling that the second goal was gift to India. We have doubt (about the penalty corner),” he said.
“But we respect the Indian players, the organisers. India has been fantastic host. We respect the umpire’s decision so we are not lodging any complaint.”
Pallarols, however, was proud of the way his wards played against a tough like India today.
“Our plan was perfect but we were playing against a very good team. We lacked in experience but we are proud (of our performance),” he said.