Hockey World Cup 2018: India’s wait for title goes on, lose 1-2 to Netherlands

Netherlands players, in orange, celebrate after scoring a goal during the Men’s Hockey World Cup quarterfinal match between India and Netherlands at Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar.(AP)
The silence of the deafening roars and tears in the eyes of the players evoked just one story – India’s dream of earning a World Cup medal here came to a crashing end as the Netherlands showed the hosts the exit door with a pulsating 2-1 quarter-final victory.
Three-time winners Netherlands showed why they are one of the top teams in the world by making those crucial stages count for which, perhaps, the Indian team is a bit too inexperienced.
Crucial mistakes by the Manpreet Singh-led team and smart play by the Dutch resulted in the latter progressing to their third consecutive World Cup semi-final where they will take on defending champions Australia on Saturday.
With the energy levels high and the vociferous crowd behind them, India started making circle penetrations from the start. The moment of reckoning came in the 12th minute as India converted the first penalty corner of the match. Harmanpreet Singh’s flick was held by a rusher but Akashdeep Singh poached the ball and put India ahead with a reverse flick to delight the crowd.
Though India played well and matched the Netherlands throughout the contest, the reigning European champions showed their pace when it mattered. With just 10 seconds to go for the first quarter and India in-charge of the contest, the hosts fouled right outside their striking circle. Even before Harendra Singh’s boys realised, two hits meant the Dutch drew parity with Thierry Brinkman’s deflection.
“The equaliser came out of nothing and it built our momentum. Though the turning point was the second half, our first goal in the dying moments of the first half also played a crucial role, motivating us and levelling the pressure,” said Dutchman Sander Baart.
Star player Jeroen Hertzberger echoed the same. “The quarter is of 15 minutes and not 14.52 seconds. We were attentive till the last and it worked for us.”India’s two other moments of inexperience showed when they were reduced to three defenders during a penalty corner in the 50th minute as Amit Rohidas was asked to leave the rest of the rushers for running out before the whistle. With one less defender, Mink van der Weerden put the Dutch ahead for the first time in the contest.
Three minutes later India were reduced to 10-men as Rohidas’ aggressive counter was fouled (yellow) reducing India to 10-men for the rest of the contest.
Down a goal, the world No.5 team showed signs of restlessness and also gave away penalty corners without a goalkeeper as Harendra removed PR Sreejesh for another field player with just four minutes left.
‘Poor umpiring’
Following the loss, India coach Harendra partly put the blame for the loss on umpiring decisions.
“I would like to tender my apologies. We didn’t do what we had to. If the umpires don’t improve, we will face these type of results. Can anyone define Rohidas’ 10-minute yellow? What about Manpreet being pushed from behind? Why not a yellow there? We have lost two major tournaments (Asian Games the other) this year (because of umpiring). 99.8% percent of the referral decisions go in favour of players,” said Harendra.
“We will accept this (loss) gracefully but we want neutral umpiring. I want both teams to be treated equally. One wrong decision can ruin preparation for 4-6 years.”