The Men in Blue bowed out of the 15th edition of the quadrennial mega event.
New Zealand beat India in the shootouts after the match was drawn (3-3). The loss dashes India’s hope of making it to the quarterfinals as they were one of the favourites to reach the podium. This is the second consecutive time India has been hosting the men’s World Cup and have lost a golden opportunity of winning it in front of the home fans. Lalit Upadhyay, Varun, and Sukhjeet were the goal scorers for the Indian team.
All is not over in the World Cup as the hosts take in the classification matches (9-16). Let us discuss the takeaways from the crossover encounter against New Zealand.
Attackers not taking penalty shootouts
Forwards Mandeep Singh, Akashdeep Singh, and Lalit Upadhyay did take part in the penalty shootout. The former two are the most experienced players in the Indian line up having represented India in three World Cups. Shamsher Singh in the past has had a dubious record of missing out on penalty shoot-outs. Yet India decided to include Samsher today in the penalty shootout against New Zealand as well.
He missed out on three chances which proved to be very costly in the end. Graham Reid could have gone in with experienced players in the end but the coach had other strategies which did not work out.
Harmanpreet Singh’s poor form continued
Harmanpreet Singh failed to perform in crunch situations and overall had a forgetful tournament. He was the highest goalscorer in 2022 scoring 39 goals but found the net only once in four matches. This was the 26-year-old first assignment as a captain and was the team’s primary penalty corner taker.
The captain had a golden opportunity in the sixth penalty shootout and had he scored India would have progressed through to the quarterfinals. Harmanpreet tried something unusual which did not pay off. Overall the defender would have taken close to 16 penalty corners out of which he scored in only one. And even for that, Wales had brought on an extra outfield player by subbing the goalkeeper out.
Goalkeepers played massive role
PR Sreejesh along with Krishan Pathak played their heart out but their heroics got nullified in the end. The former in particular had to make two saves for India else New Zealand would have won the match in the first cycle of the shootouts. In the entire tournament, Pathak let go of only one goal and was excellent in the final quarter against New Zealand making three crucial saves.
Goalkeepers have been India’s strength for the past few years and have done their job to perfection.
Akashdeep Singh made his presence felt
Akashdeep Singh apart from scoring goals made his presence felt both in attack and defence throughout the match. He made a few counterattacking moves and one of which got converted into a goal. The pass to Abhishek Singh stood out in the counterattack and the youngster in return passed it on to another attacker Lalit Upadhyay who scored his first goal of the World Cup. India overall had different goal scorers in all four matches which was a positive sign but the important ones failed to score.
Lacked control in midfield
India definitely missed the presence of Hardik Singh from the game as we were run over by the midfield of the Black Sticks in the final 15 minutes of the game. With more control, the Men in Blue could have seen the game through. However, the final 17 minutes saw the team instead concede twice as New Zealand took the game to the penalty shootout.
Some had questioned the decision of calling Raj Kumar Pal, a forward, in place of Hardik when there was a midfielder (Jugraj Singh) available.