Raipur: India on Sunday broke their 33-year-old medal jinx in a major international tournament, sanctioned by the International Hockey Federation (FIH), as they beat Netherlands in the shoot-out to win the bronze at the Hockey World League Final here. Chief coach Roelant Oltmans said the achievement will be a “huge confidence booster” for his team ahead of next year’s Rio Olympics. (Rupinder Pal Singh, Ramandeep Singh Shine as India Pip Netherlands to Clinch Bronze)
A spirited India came back from two goals down to beat defending champions and world number two Netherlands 3-2 in the shoot-out after both the teams were tied 5-5 at regulation time in the bronze medal play-off match. (Highlights)
“This win showed what we can do well if we play the way we want to play. This should be a huge confidence booster for the team because we have not really done well in the medal round matches. It’s always special to win a medal round match,” an elated Oltmans said at the post-match press conference.
Oltmans lauded Indian skipper Sardar Singh and goalkeeper PR Sreejesh, who made numerous saves especially in the shoot-out to help the home team’s cause.
“These two (Sreejesh and Sardar) contributed a lot. But a lot of other individual players played really well. Most important thing was that we made progress in every match. If you look at every match we did something that was positive, that we can build on,” the coach said.
“But of course there are a few issues like closing out the match,” he added.
Sardar said the bronze medal means a lot for the team considering the fact that it came after a long hiatus of 33 years.
“After 33 years it means a huge deal for all of us. We have been working on tiny details on the field and it showed today. But we will pick on the positive from this tournament. We will celebrate the medal and focus on the Olympics,” Sardar said.
Vice-captain Sreejesh agreed with Sardar. “We will celebrate a bit. It’s a huge deal for us to win a medal after so many years. One way of looking at it is we are in that position is because goalkeeper concedes a goal and rest of the players, their shoulders drop,” said Sreejesh.
“Similarly when I make a save it has a lot of positive impact on them. Likewise, when the team scores a goal I really feel confident. So it’s not really about me making a save, it’s the overall thing that matters,” he said.
Netherlands coach Max Caldas feels they dominated in the first three quarters but lost their way in the last 15 minutes of the match.
“We controlled the match for three quarters and kept the crowd silent. But in the fourth quarter India stepped it up and we could not match it. They started playing more aggressively. They showed a lot of desperation in everything they tried which we did not. So they won the 50-50 balls, they had more circle penetrations and wanted to score goals desperately,” he said.
“Our players could not match that intensity and it clearly showed on field. There was control to chaos in the last 10 minutes but then we gathered ourselves and in the last 3 minutes we stuck to our plan again and scored the two goals.”