The Men in Blue went on to win the bronze medal at the tournament.

Indian men’s hockey team gave a good account of itself in the recent Hockey Asia Cup 2022. The outfit, led by Sardar Singh on the sidelines, won the bronze after beating Japan in the third-place playoff in the city of Jakarta, Indonesia. There were places up for grabs for the FIH Hockey World Cup 2023. The top three teams, that have yet not qualified, would get qualification for the tournament to be held in India next year. 

Since India is hosting the prestigious tournament, their qualification was already confirmed. This gave the management a chance to field a team full of fresh faces. Most of the senior figures from the national team did not participate, leaving space for a second-string squad. This decision was very useful to provide experience and exposure to fringe players and give them a chance to make a mark. 

Having said that, the Men in Blue took the place on the podium despite facing strong opposition from the best teams in Asia. They delivered good performances throughout the tournament. Here is a performance review of the Indian team from the Asia Cup 2022 with key takeaways:

Preliminary Round

India was in Pool A, together with teams like Pakistan, Japan and Indonesia. The opener against Pakistan was a very entertaining encounter, despite the 1-1 score. Every match against traditional rivals and neighbours is a hotly contested fixture. Selvam Karthi of India almost secured the win for his team but a last-minute goal by Abdul Rana of Pakistan shared the points evenly. Failing to capitalise on attacking opportunities was negative for the Indian outfit in that particular fixture.

The second game against Japan left India on the brink of elimination from the Pool A. Since only the top two teams were allowed to move into Super 4s, losing the second match by 5-2 against the Japanese left Sardar Singh and co with a lot to do. On the other hand, Pakistan demolished Indonesia with a 13-0 score. Four of five goals from Japan came in the second half, which exposed gaps in Indian defence and its ability to concentrate.  

Heading into the final match against Indonesia, India had to win by a 16-goal margin. In an incredible fashion, India beat Indonesia by 16-0 with Dipsan Tirkey scoring five goals. More importantly, two goals in the final minute sent the Men in Blue into the Super 4s of Hockey Asia Cup alongside Japan from the Pool A. 

Super 4s

India’s campaign at Hockey Asia Cup took a good turn in the first Super 4s fixture as they beat Japan by 2-1, taking revenge for the earlier Pool A defeat. Learning from its mistakes, India registered a good defensive performance. However, a 3-3 draw with Malaysia and a 4-4 draw with South Korea meant India finished third in the group based on goal difference. 

In the final contest of the tournament, India met Japan for the third time, on this occasion for the bronze. Raj Kumar Pal scored the solitary goal for India, helping it to third place on the podium in the Asia Cup 2022.

Key performer

Dipsan Tirkey

Dipsan Tirkey was India’s top goalscorer with five goals in the tournament. All five of his goals came in a memorable 16-0 win over Indonesia. The defender showed good leadership qualities at the Asia Cup in Jakarta, Indonesia. His penalty corner conversion was brilliant and makes him a good option for the team in the future. 

Apart from that, Indian players gave a good overall contribution. Pawan Rajbhar scored four goals in a good display at the tournament. In addition, players like S.V Sunil, Nilam Sanjeep Xess, Selvam Karthi, and Sudev Belimagga all scored three goals each.

Conclusion

India can take a lot of positives away from the third-place finish at the Hockey Asia Cup 2022. The second strong squad kept up with the best that Asia has to offer and took its place on the podium. This proves that upcoming Indian players are hungry and it leaves the Indian hockey future in good hands. 

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