Harendra Singh
Harendra Singh

Bhubaneswar: India’s chief coach Harendra Singh said a change of structure and game plan at half-time turned things around for his side after conceding an early goal in the 2-2 draw against Belgium in a Pool ‘C’ match of the men’s hockey World Cup on Sunday.

India gave away a goal in the eighth minute before bouncing back strongly after half time to lead 2-1. But Belgium struck four minutes from the hooter to snatch a 2-2 draw in an evenly-contested match. Harendra said he was not surprised by Belgium’s “full press” tactics early on.

“We were not surprised in the first quarter with Belgium’s full press. We had discussed about it. They knew as the match progresses, India will be dangerous. My boys utilised the crowd’s energy,” the India coach said after the match. “In the first half, we were running behind the ball, we didn’t have enough possession. We changed the structure slightly (at half-time). That worked really well. We started shifting the ball vertically,” he said.

He said Belgium were left with little gas in the third and fourth quarters.  “We did double tackling. Whether we are behind the ball or chasing it, we maintain pace.” Harendra said fitness played a big part in India’s performance.”I feel proud about our fitness. Credit goes to Robin (Arkell). I have never seen such a fit Indian team,” he said.

“Whether we have the ball or not, we can’t drop our energy. We need to make opponents’ life miserable.” The coach said India’s ‘USP’ was playing attacking hockey and they can’t compromise on that. “We have decided what suits Indian hockey, that is more important. India can’t play with defensive approach,” he said.

Harendra said Belgium scored the equaliser because of his side’s defensive lapse. “I don’t call it misfortune (conceding in final few minutes). The ball was with us. We snatched the ball, we tried to run with it, we should have passed. Getting turnover is an art but giving turnovers is suicide,” he said.

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