Legend's Voice: Harendra Singh's constant substitutions against South Africa helped India maintain tempo throughout match
In a special interview for Firstpost's Legend's Voice series, Dronacharya Awardee Clarence Lobo talks to Amit Kamath about India's 2018 hockey World Cup opener against South Africa.
Having been a coach for over 25 years, Clarence Lobo was awarded the prestigious Dronacharya Award in September this year. He spoke to Amit Kamath.
The pace with which the Indian team played against South Africa in their opening game on Wednesday was fantastic. What really helped the team was India coach Harendra Singh's constant changes, he kept making substitutions every few minutes, which helped the tempo stay high throughout the game. The pace never fell down. This is also important because the players have to sustain the same energy till the last match of the tournament.
Another good thing about this team is that they are playing very compact defensively. And whatever went through the defence, goalkeeper PR Sreejesh mopped up very nicely.
The good thing is that we are penetrating the striking circle very frequently. But the only thing that I am bothered about is scoring off those. The penalty corners.
In the latter stages of the tournament, when you are playing against better teams, you won't have these many chances to take a strike at the goal. If you get two or three shots in a game, you have to score off at least one of them. We got a few penalty corner chances on Wednesday, but we scored only once. That too off a rebound! We need to improve on that because, in the latter stages, big teams won't allow you to enter the circle. It is in these type of matches that the penalty corner specialists in the team should gain confidence by scoring.
But other than that, the team is playing fantastic hockey. What was also heartening to see is that the young players in the team did not crumble under the pressure of the overwhelming home support.
Now comes the match against Belgium. It'll be a fantastic match to watch. The equation is simple, if you win this match we will be through to the quarter-finals, because I don't think Canada will prove to be such a big task. Although to be fair, Canada is a very dicey team and they played a very good game against Belgium. They just defended for the entire game.
But what was a factor in that game I thought was that it was just the first match for Belgium and they will grow better as the tournament progresses? Belgium – besides Australia, Germany and the Netherlands – is among the top teams in the world. India should not focus on Canada. They should be bothered about the game against Belgium. If we top the group, we go straight to the quarter-finals rather than playing a crossover game so it is very important to beat Belgium.
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