Men's Hockey Pro League

Was India’s FIH Pro League defeat to Spain a cause for concern?

Shaunak GhoshShaunak Ghosh
March 10 2022
FIH Pro league
(Courtesy : Hockey India)

The defeat to Spain at home exposed a lot of weaknesses within the team.

The Indian men’s hockey team recently played a double-header with Spain in the FIH Pro League 2021-22. Both matches took place at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar, Odisha. While the Men in Blue secured a win in the first of the two matches, they succumbed to a defeat in the second. 

The Europeans handed India their second defeat in the FIH Pro League, after France had got the better of Graham Reid’s men earlier in South Africa. The first game ended in India’s favour, but the team had to go all guns blazing in the final quarter in order to secure the win. While the 5-4 win saw the Tokyo Olympics bronze medalists make an epic comeback, the second fixture was a reality check. 

Spain took their game up a few levels and India’s weaknesses came to the surface. The defeat meant the team have a few major issues to resolve before their upcoming matches. Here is a look at some issues that were exposed during the defeat against Spain:

Experimentation with the squad

Graham Reid is an experienced coach who is building the team for a very important next few years. The 2022 calendar is full of important competitions, including the Asian Games. Furthermore, the Indian hockey team will look to carry its upward trajectory to build a team to win gold at the next Olympics.

Several players like Abhishek, Sukhjeet Singh and so on are new to the national setup. Due to the experimentation and building towards the future, there will be some negative results as the players work to find chemistry.

New additions resulting in inconsistency 

Carrying on from the above point of experimentation, the new additions will lead to some negative results along the way. India’s performance in the Pro League can be termed as inconsistent, at best. Two 10-2 wins against South Africa in the FIH Pro League and an impressive 5-0 win over France were undone by shock defeats.

During the double-header with Spain, India were slow in the first game but showed incredible determination to win 5-4 after being down 1-4 at a point. However, a lack of consistency meant they could not replicate the same will to make a comeback in the second fixture.

Lack of experienced players

Suraj Karkera
Suraj Karkera is considered the long term replacement for PR Sreejesh (Courtesy: Hockey India)

The Indian team are going through a mild transition phase. The FIH Pro League match against Spain saw a few experienced players miss out. For instance, veteran goalkeeper PR Sreejesh was not fully involved and Suraj Karkera did not find it easy in front of goal. 

The team are struggling without the presence of players like Simranjeet Singh and Rupinder Pal Singh who played key roles in the bronze medal run in Japan.

Careless Defending

Giving away soft goals made it tough for India to make a comeback in the FIH Pro League defeat against Spain. During the 5-4 win as well, the Men in Blue left it late, trailing by three goals at a point. Losing 3-5 to Spain meant India conceded nine goals in merely two matches against the Spaniards.

Giving away soft goals and failing to block penalty-corners were some of the issues in defence that the Indian hockey team must work on before their meeting with Germany. 

Learning from mistakes

Spain did what India could not and that was to learn from their mistakes. During the first of the two FIH Pro League matches, the Indian attack got the better of their opponents with pacy counter-attacking gameplay. However, the same strategy did not work in the second fixture and a lack of a ‘Plan B’ hurt India’s quality in the final third.

Being too direct from defence to attack was a startegy that Spain predicted and countered effectively. The Spanish players defended deep and when India won the ball in turnovers, they were too quick to go on the counter, leaving the team with less possession and hence control of the match.

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