Well, the Manpreet Singh’s boys should take heart from their performance after a sloppy beginning to the World Cup.
Save for two short corner goals in quick succession, by You Seungji which allowed Korea to draw level – they only needed a draw to sail through to the last-eight stage – punctured the Indian confidence and their hopes of progressing further, the home side otherwise had a good day in office.
India took the pitch minus in-form drag-flicker Gurjinder Singh – a move which sounded inexplicable given that he is India’s best bet in penalty corner exercises.
His absence was sorely felt in the initial stages when he was warming the reserves bench. India bungled two penalty corners during the time he was off the field as Amit Rohidas muffed up both those opportunities.
Koreans made India pay for that when You Seungji converted his team’s second short corner to make the first dent on the scoresheet.
The boisterous home crowd was wearing a restless look as India was unable to convert their dominance in possession into goals.
The induction of Gurjinder acted like a lucky charm for India as he rifled home his team’s third penalty corner to restore parity close to half-time. The strapping fullback soon gave India the lead at the stroke of half-time converting India’s fourth short corner.
The Indian forwardline was at its best, orchestrating raids from both flanks in the second half. A brilliant combined effort saw Ramandeep Singh feed Satbir Singh, whose razor-sharp pass was tapped home by Mandeep Singh. India was doing all the running and nearly scored the fourth goal when Malal Singh deflected in a rising ball from Mandeep Singh, but the umpire disallowed the goal.
Skipper Manpreet Singh was shown the green card and the Koreans took full advantage of the numerical superiority, pumping home two goals from short corners via You – who is now the top goal-scorer with seven goals.
India had ten minutes to go ahead and seal a place in the quarterfinals, but Korea was prepared to run down the clock and should consider themselves lucky to manage a draw when they were at the receiving end of India for most part of the second stanza.
The result means India will now have to fight for places 8-16 – something hockey fans wouldn’t have hoped given the kind of talent the team possesses.
Picture Courtesy FIH