Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

With hopes of their title defence shattered, a demoralised Indian team would look to put behind the disappointment quickly and get their acts together as they seek revenge against France in the bronze medal play-off match of the FIH Junior Men’s Hockey World Cup at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Sunday.

The hosts’ quest for a second consecutive Junior World Cup title ended after they suffered a 2-4 defeat against six-time winners Germany in the second semifinal match on Friday.

While Germany will meet Argentina in the summit clash, the Indians will get an opportunity to avenge their 4-5 loss to France in their tournament opener. But to finish on the podium, the Indian juniors will have to lift their game by few notches and make amends of their sloppy show against Germany.

The India colts, who last won the Junior World Cup title in Lucknow in 2016, looked a pale shadow of themselves against Germany. They played defensive hockey from the start and lacked consistency. Lack of aggressive instinct by the Indian team would certainly bother chief coach Graham Reid, who is in charge of the junior team in this tournament after having guided the senior side to a historic bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics.

Against Belgium in the quarterfinals, the team’s defence was extraordinary but the same backline was caught napping by the Germans. The likes of Yashdeep Siwach, vice-captain Sanjay Kumar, Shardanand Tiwari and Abhishek Lakra failed to control Germany’s fast paced game.  The hosts would be looking for a much-better outing in the play-off match to clinch at least a consolation third place finish.

Reid had no qualms in admitting that his wards lacked in every department of the game against Germany.

“If you have to win at the world stage, basics have to be flawless. We created opportunities but they weren’t quality ones. We have to come out on Sunday with all guns blazing and avenge that first game loss against France,” Reid said.

There was no cohesion between the midfield and forward line in the match against Germany. With four quality penalty corner specialists in the side in Sanjay, Araijeet Singh Hundal, Tiwai and Lakra, India’s weapon is set pieces but they secured just one against Germany which Sanjay couldn’t capitalise.

The Indian players looked to be short of ideas and were searching desperately for pace when the ball was in their possession. Instead of trying to earn penalty corners, the Indian players were guilty of holding on to the ball too long and dribbling too much inside the opponent’s circle.

As per the coach, decision making from the Indian players has to be spot on against France if they desire to finish on the podium.

“Smart players make better decisions at the right time. Our decision making wasn’t that good against Germany. Our decision wasn’t also up to the mark at the midfield as well. At the end of the day that’s what gives you outcomes is the ability to make good decisions inside the circle,” Reid said.

With the forecast of heavy showers and high winds on Sunday due to the landfall of cyclone ‘Jawad’ near Puri, ground conditions are expected to be tough on the final day of the grand event.

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