If not for the dozen or so Junior World Cup brandings across the stadium periphery, it will have been straightforward to mistake this for a men-versus-boys contest. Not less than that’s what it felt like when the 2 groups lined up for the anthems, virtually giving an impression that they had been ordered to face in descending order of their heights, beginning with Germany.
The obvious distinction within the physiques, with some German gamers one head taller than their Indian counterparts, obtained magnified as soon as the sport started. When Vishnukant Singh tried to steam forward with the ball by the midfield, Mario Schachner merely lunged ahead and used his lengthy attain to grab the ball away with none fuss, virtually like stealing sweet from a child.
Minutes later, when ahead Uttam Singh tried to play a lobbed cross to beat the 2 males bearing down on him, one among them, Erik Kleinlein, simply lifted his stick and intercepted the ball mid-air with such ease that one felt sorry for Uttam.
Rahul Kumar Rajbhar obtained some area on the correct and went one-on-one with Germany’s goalkeeper Anton Brinckman. He beat Brinckman with a dribble and went past him. However the goalkeeper, who was on his knees, used his large wingspan to sort out the Indian ahead and win again possession.
Not the end result we needed however we gave it our all 💪
— Hockey India (@TheHockeyIndia) December 3, 2021
This remained the sample for all the first half, a interval that determined the Junior World Cup hockey semifinal between India and Germany. Taking full benefit of their top, the six-time champions ended the hosts’ title defence with a facile 4-2 win. The margin might have been so much larger had Germany transformed the three clear-cut possibilities that fell their method within the opening half-hour.
Succumbing to bullying
With their tight man-to-man play, Germany had been at all times going to be an uncomfortable opponent for India. Few, nonetheless, thought it will get so brutal. There have been shades of the German facet that misplaced to India within the bronze-medal match on the Tokyo Olympics of their junior crew that decimated India with their belligerence.
Each German groups – in Tokyo and right here in Bhubaneswar – used their physique to bully the Indians, particularly within the midfield. On the Olympics, the Indian seniors had been capable of give it again to them and stage a comeback after going 3-1 down. The juniors, nonetheless, succumbed to their fixed, relentless and in-your-face aggression.
“It’s what it’s, they had been pushing us… however that’s what you get at this stage,” India coach Graham Reid stated after the match. “That’s why power and conditioning is so necessary. We’ve got techniques (to counter that), we’ve to proceed to enhance.”
India’s gamers have usually had a top drawback whereas enjoying European opponents. Virtually at all times, they negated that with their superior stick expertise and pace. On Friday, they had been unable to make use of the complete vary of their expertise.
One of many easiest methods to nullify the bodily issue is by receiving the ball and instantly stepping away from the defenders’ zone. “You simply get out of their attain,” Reid stated. “We weren’t in a position to do this.”
India is a crew that likes to counterattack, as a substitute of taking the initiative in a match. Towards Germany, who performed a half-court press, ready of their half for India to make a transfer, the Indians had been compelled out of their consolation zone.
Choking the midfield
The Germans inundated the midfield and compelled India to cross in direction of the sidelines. Indians regarded so occupied in holding an arms-length distance from the Germans that they weren’t capable of make proper selections – whether or not to shoot, discover a foot or dribble.
The additional second they spent on the ball gave Germany sufficient time to make use of their lengthy attain and snatch possession. Germany defended in teams of two, thus placing further stress on Indian gamers and hardly obtained a sort out improper.
This was important, because it helped them preserve India away from their ‘D’ – India had half as many circle penetrations in comparison with Germany – and keep away from conceding penalty corners, which has been the hosts’ power.
And the second they received the ball, Germany launched aerial passes to the opposite half of the pitch, the place forwards would use their power to outmuscle the Indian defence.
One among India’s hallmarks after the opening defeat to France was the calmness with which the defence has handled high-pressure conditions. Whereas Canada and Poland didn’t check the backline that a lot, the defence – led by Sanjay Kumar, Yashdeep Siwach and Sharda Nand Tiwari – put in a outstanding shift towards Belgium to eke out a quarterfinal win.
The way in which India defended towards Germany was in stark distinction to the Belgium recreation – the passes lacked zip and had been simply intercepted, they made uncharacteristic trapping errors and the weak left flank was opened up again and again.
These had been the identical drawback areas for India towards France, whom they may face within the third-place match on Sunday. Towards them, within the opening match, India’s largest bane was the shortage of match follow.
Towards Germany, they merely fell brief. Fairly actually.