New Delhi: India continued their winning streak in the competition after their 4-2 win over Poland in the last pool match of the FIH Olympic qualifier on Friday. The victory meant India will face France in their final match on Sunday.
Sandeep Singh continued his brilliant form, buckling another brace despite being benched for most of the match. Already sure of a place in the final, India were again looking for early breakthroughs but faced a stiff resistance from a rock solid Polish defense instead. No other opponent in the championship stretched the hosts this far and the Indians will be relieved by the result.
Going into the tournament India encountered problems in their defense mechanism but that seems solved. The extra care has given them results as the championship progressed. They took care that they covered up defense and hence they fell back in numbers to help defenders thwart the counters. India have the best defensive record so far. The hosts have conceded just eight goals from five games, which is the least in the pool.
When it looked like they have sorted out the defensive flaws, there appeared fresh trouble in finishing. The match against Canada was a testimony to this latest mess. But when all thought it was rectified it haunted them against Poland as well.
India were close to scoring in the 20th minute but failed yet again. There was another short corner in the 40 th which was wasted. Indian team is not short of good finishers. Shivendra Singh and Gurwinder Singh Chandi have proved their worth over the years. Still, Shivendra was not in his usual best when it came to finishing, even routine ones.
Polish team was first to shake the Indian net to put pressure on them. They were impressive on the field and were neck in neck to India. Tomasz Dutkiewicz scored off a penalty corner in the 13th minute. India took the lead with goals from Sandeep (26th) and Shivendra Singh (59). Poland equalized soon after through Miroslaw Juszczak in the 63rd minute.
The one area where the Indians were left untested was goalkeeping, incidentally the strength of the hosts. But coach Nobbs left nothing to chances by giving equal importance and care during the practice sessions so that they don’t get rusty.
Asked whether he surprised to see the Poles fight hard, coach Michael Nobbs said, “I expected this from Poland as they are also trying hard for an Olympic spot.”