Indian coach Paul van Ass is imploring his wards to be fast learners and take the lessons from the preliminary round into the encounter against Malaysia in the Hockey World League Semifinals.
Asian Games gold medallists India are aware of the threat posed in Wednesday’s quarterfinal contest by Malaysia, who will draw confidence for the 3-2 victory in the last encounter between them during the Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh two months ago.
Starting with unimpressive wins over France and Poland, the misfiring Indians were held to a 2-2 draw by sub-continental rivals Pakistan before being at the receiving end of a 2-6 drubbing at the hands of World champions Australia in the last league match on Sunday.
Australia stamped their authority over India with two early goals, leaving India with plenty of work to do in deep defence.
“We ought to take the lessons learnt from this game into the quarterfinal contest with Malaysia,” said van Ass, aware that any let-up will give Malaysia an opening to capitalise upon.
“There were some valuable lessons learnt during the pool matches here. We have got hammered when we did not play well, this must not be forgotten,” said van Ass, who can afford not to get too tense ahead of this encounter as India’s place in next year’s Olympic Games is not entirely dependent upon this knock-out fixture.
Having already qualified for the Rio Olympics by virtue of their Asian Games gold medal, India came into the tournament with long-term perspective in mind. Giving a good show despite the presence of several youngsters in the squad is one of the targets set by van Ass, who took over as India’s
coach just a few months ago.
“We should be able to set the pace of the match,” said van Ass as he braces for the game against Malaysia. “Against Australia, we could do little when we got caught in the rhythm set by the World champions.”
Australia, who last year completed a hat-trick of three consecutive World Cup victories, duly took their appointed position atop the Pool A standings with the maximum 12 points from four outings, while India finished second with seven points. Pakistan and France were the other two teams to make
the quarterfinals from this pool.
But the quarterfinal lineup was not known until the last minute of the Belgium-Ireland fixture last evening, which Belgium won 2-1.
Belgium’s match-winner came 25 seconds before the hooter, and that too when Ireland threw caution to the wind by taking off the goalkeeper to put in an additional strikers on the turf.
Belgium finished with 10 points by virtue of that last-minute goal, followed by Great Britain on eight points and Malaysia on six. France ended with four points. The Irish went out looking for a victory that would have lifted to the third spot.
Losing or drawing against Belgium would not have changed the placing for Ireland, hence they made the desperate gamble in the final stages. Had the Irish not conceded the last goal, this match would have ended in a draw and Belgium would have slipped to the second spot with Britain securing the top slot on basis of a superior goal difference.
Britain were 25 seconds away from a quarterfinal matchup with minnows France, but now head into a potentially stirring encounter with three-time Olympic champions Pakistan, for whom this tournament is the last chance to qualify for Rio de Janeiro.
Quarterfinal lineup: Australia vs Ireland; India vs Malaysia; Pakistan vs Great Britain; Belgium vs France.