India face tough task against Britain in bronze play-off

 Laid low after suffering a 0-4 thrashing at the hands of Belgium, India face a tough task in their bid to finish on the podium when they take on a tenacious Great Britain in the bronze medal match of the men's Hockey World League Semifinals here on Sunday.

PTI| Last Updated: Jul 04, 2015, 15:12 PM IST
India face tough task against Britain in bronze play-off

Antwerp: Laid low after suffering a 0-4 thrashing at the hands of Belgium, India face a tough task in their bid to finish on the podium when they take on a tenacious Great Britain in the bronze medal match of the men's Hockey World League Semifinals here on Sunday.

India, who are four places below world number five Great Britain in FIH rankings, will need to produce a much improved show than they produced in their semifinal loss against hosts Belgium in which Sardar Singh's team suffered a 0-4 drubbing last evening at the KHC Dragons Stadium.

Great Britain suffered a 1-3 loss to World champions Australia in the other semifinal, but not without giving the top-ranked Australian outfit a tough fight. It was just a few passes that went to the Australian strikers that let the British defence down.

The focus will be on the Indian ability to recover from the thrashing at the hands world number four Belgium, who the Indians have always given a good contest. Just one or two goals have separated the teams in their contests in recent years.

The Indian team has shown its mettle in recovering from a big loss to Australia and make the last-four round, and now the boys face a stiff task of doing so in the medal game.

"We have to play smart against Great Britain. We need to hang in longer and must not lose possession without fighting for it," says India chief coach Paul van Ass.

Great Britain are formidable outfit, who defeated India 2-1 through a last-minute goal in the last encounter between the two nations, during the World Cup at The Hague last year.

Having missed the grade for the Champions Trophy last year, Great Britain are doubly determined to win a medal ahead of the Rio Olympic Games next year.

Van Ass wants his team to guard against conceding early goals, which turned out to be bane for the Indians in the semifinal against Belgium. After conceding two soft goals in the initial eight minutes, India faced a tough task against the Red Lions' structured game.

"We need to take lessons from the outing against Belgium in the semifinal. It was a big learning experience for the boys. For a start, we must guard against letting in early goals," said Van Ass.

"Belgium have a structured game. It is easy to read the structure, but they did a fantastic job in executing the structure," he said.

The coach said the exposure against top international teams would help India's young players.

"The players need lessons to grow and more international outings will teach them a lot. Some boys do not have enough international experience," said Van Ass.

"We should not read too much into small errors, they will overcome them soon," said Van Ass about defensive errors that led to India conceding soft goals that put Belgium in control of the semifinal.

"We were in the contest even after conceding two early goals. I had a feeling we could come closer, but we could not capitalise on our chances," he said.

India's own inability to make the penalty corners count against Belgium was on the coach's mind. Rupinder Pal Singh was back on the pitch in the semifinal, but India still failed to score off penalty corners.

"Rupinder has been out of action for 12-13 days due to injury in a warmup game ahead of the tournament. It was not easy for him to strike form," said Van Ass, exhorting the Indian team to get it right in the bronze medal match.

Meanwhile, Australia will be the favourites going into the title encounter against hosts Belgium.

With their fire-power, the Australians have shown their ability to demolish any opponent, even though Great Britain put up a stiff contest in the semifinal.

Malaysia kept alive the chance for another Asian team to qualify for the Olympic Games after former champions Pakistan and South Korea failed to win their tickets to Rio de Janeiro.

Malaysia now must win their fifth place play-off game against Ireland tomorrow to hope for a Rio Games berth.