World Cup Hockey 2023: The India Men’s Hockey team experienced a heartbreaking loss in the quarterfinals of the FIH Hockey Men’s World Cup, falling to New Zealand in a dramatic penalty shootout after the match ended in a 3-3 draw in regulation time. The match, which took place at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Sunday, saw India take an early 2-0 lead before New Zealand fought back to force the game into extra time.
India began the match brightly, with Lalit Kumar Upadhyay scoring in the 17th minute to give India the lead. Upadhyay, who had a below-par tournament, made a well-timed run down the right and when Shamsher Singh’s pass reached him, he slammed the ball into the goal. Seven minutes later, Sukhjeet Singh doubled India’s lead, slamming a rebound off a Harmanpreet Singh penalty corner into goal to spark scenes of jubilation at the Kalinga Stadium. It looked like India had finally arrived at the World Cup.
The Indian Hockey team and the 15,000-odd fans got a quick reality check two minutes from the first half. In their Pool matches, New Zealand coach Greg Nicols resorted to taking off his goalkeeper as soon as his team conceded to give his team the advantage of an extra outfield player. Against India, Nicols decided against it on Sunday, simply because India allowed his team to create chances without the extra man.
“In the second half, we got a lot of traction, we started playing really, really well, created a lot of chances. We didn’t need to do anything too flashy. The yellow card hurt us but in the end, we defended like Trojans when we had 10 players,” Nicols said after the match.
“We were ready to (take off their goalkeeper) if we needed to. But we were playing so well with the ball and because India were counter-attacking, there was obviously some risk. We were creating enough chances without taking the keeper off and that helped us,” he added.
India coach Graham Reid had been calling on his forwards to stay calm since the beginning of the tournament, and in the end, saw his solid defense mimic his attackers in being jittery when facing opposition players. Even vice-captain Amit Rohidas, who played quite well in India’s pool matches, was guilty of giving the ball away cheaply. New Zealand had the Indian defense to thank for all three of their goals.
World Cup Hockey 2023: India lacked finishing skills that spelled doom
“In the last quarter, we let ourselves down, we gave the ball away. We kept doing things which made it difficult. Every team, at certain stages, will have issues converting circle penetrations. We probably need to go back to the drawing board. It’s skill execution at the end of the day,” Reid said after the match.
The Indian team had been criticized for their lack of finishing in the tournament, and this match was no different. Despite creating several scoring opportunities, the team was unable to capitalize and convert them into goals. This ultimately proved to be their downfall, as they were unable to hold on to their lead and secure the win.
The match also saw a yellow card given to India’s Surender Kumar, which proved to be crucial as it forced the team to play with 10 men for a significant portion of the match. This made it even more difficult for the team to hold on to their lead and defend against the relentless New Zealand attack.
Despite the loss, the match was praised as one of the best of the tournament, with the tension and drama on display making for a thrilling spectacle. The Black Sticks ultimately emerged victorious, winning the penalty shootout 4-3 to secure their spot in the semifinals.
This was a heartbreaking loss for the India Men’s Hockey team, but they should be proud of their performance throughout the tournament. They have shown that they have the skill and talent to compete at the highest level of international hockey and will undoubtedly be determined to come back stronger in future tournaments.
The team and their fans will look back on this match as a missed opportunity but it will also serve as a valuable learning experience for the team. India’s hockey has a bright future ahead and this defeat will only serve to motivate them to work harder and achieve greater success.