Raipur: India's forwardline might be facing a lot of flak for its poor show in the ongoing Hockey World League (HWL) Final here, scoring just two goals in three games, but chief coach Roelant Oltmans today defended his strikers, saying they have been let down by the final pass.
Indian striking force of Akashdeep Singh, Ramandeep Singh, SV Sunil, Talwinder Singh, Mohd Amir have been a big disappointment in this tournament so far, wasting numerous scoring opportunities. Out of five chances, only Akashdeep hit a goal during the 1-1 draw against Olympic champions Germany.
But Oltmans came in support of his strike force, putting the blame on the final delivery.
"It is disappointing but like I said before, you just can't blame the forwards. We also need to look at the kind of passes they received. Sometimes it looks like a forward is not picking up the ball, but the pass itself is terrible.
Sometimes it's a bumpy ball, the direction is not good, speed is not good and seems that the forward made the mistake," Oltmans said at the Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel Stadium here today after India finished their pool stage at last position with just one point, courtesy the draw against Germany.
"I have said many a times that the passing style is not good. We need to improve on our passing. And if you see the last three games, the forwards had to receive bouncy balls, and under pressure, it's not easy. If the pass is not good, he will take time. In the end you want more out of your circle penetrations," he explained.
Although they finished last in Pool B, India still progressed to the quarterfinals because of the format which allows all the eight participating teams a chance to make it to the knock-out phase.
India will take on the toppers of Pool A in the quarterfinals, owing to their last place finish in Pool B.
Reiterating that inconsistency has been India's main problem, Oltmans said it would take time to address the problem.
"It's not been consistent enough, that's clear. We have been good in certain faces. Against Germany we played really well. There's room for improvement," he said.
"For me the most important thing is we need to be patient and take more time when we execute our plans. Every attack from us has been 100 per cent. The boys are playing the way I want them to play. But too many times we lose possession somewhere on our way. And we lose a lot of energy in winning back the ball. The same energy is needed when we are in the final third."
Oltmans, who is also the High Performance Director of the Indian hockey team, lauded the performance of his midfield led by talismanic skipper Sardar Singh.
"The midfield has played really well in the past games.
But the attack has disappointed, and that is because we lost energy in the defensive third. That's an area we need to improve. We also have made some technical mistakes. Some wrong decisions were taken during the game. At the end we don't get enough out of the game," he said.
In three matches so far, India managed to secure a penalty corner each in every game which is a cause of concern considering the fact that it is one of the team's strongest areas because of the presence of three dragflickers -- VR Raghunath, Rupinder Pal Singh and Jasjeet Singh Kular.
"Yes, that's what we want (more short corners). We have a battery of players. But it's not as easy as it used to be before. Now-a-days, the defending is getting better and better. Don't forget that except the Argentina game, we have conceded just one penalty corner in the game against Germany and The Netherlands.
"That shows, defensively, the teams are getting better and better. And it's hard to earn a penalty corner against a top international side. But having said that, we would like to have more and more penalty corners," Oltmans said.
Asked which team he would prefer in the quarterfinals, Oltmans said opposition hardly matters but personally he would like to play either Great Britain or Belgium and not Australia as all the three sides have a chance to top Pool A.
"We'll wait and see. I'll watch all the teams today. It would be anyone from Great Britain, Belgium and Australia. I don't care too much about it because my 90 per cent focus is on the Indian side and not our opponents. I don't have a choice of opponent. They all are the top side in the world.
And that's something we want, to play against the best and test ourselves.
"Having played Australia recently, I would like to test my side against Great Britain or Belgium," he said.