Legend's Voice: The outcome of India-Belgium clash will be decided by goalkeepers and drag-flickers
In this Firstpost series of Legend's Voice, VR Raghunath dwells on India's 5-0 win over South Africa and looks ahead to the game against Belgium.
VR Raghunath played two World Cups (2006, 2014) for India as a fullback. An acclaimed drag-flicker, Raghunath is a Champions Trophy silver medallist (2016), Commonwealth Games silver medallist (2016), and an Asian Games gold medallist (2014). He spoke to Shantanu Srivastava.
India had a really good start to the World Cup. A 5-0 win is an excellent score and I think we have got a great goal-average lead. The players should rest well and look forward to the next match. Going forward, games will only get tougher, and the players should concentrate on penalty corner conversion.
We had 4-5 penalty corners against South Africa, and every drag flick was saved. The ones that we scored of were from rebounds. If we can't score field goals in crucial matches, I think penalty corners will give us a good chance of getting goals. We should be positive. The boys are playing very good. They are competitive, fit, energetic, and I think they are on a right track.
Every team has a different style of play. South Africa and Canada have a similar ranking, but Belgium couldn't score as many as us. They missed quite a few penalty corners themselves. It's always important to start a big tournament with such a result. In the next match, all our players will come with a free mind and start opening up the game.
There were some hiccups in the third quarter, but these kinds of bad five-six minutes will arrive in every game and the opponents will start applying pressure at some stage. I think the Indian team realised their strategy very fast. Some inputs came from outside and they changed their plans.
India were a lot settled team after that period, but these kinds of 5-6 minutes will come in every match and we should be ready for them. I think the trick is to keep things simple, easy and safe.
I think South Africa gave up after that quarter. By that time they were 0-3 down, so mentally they were tired. Indian boys kept up the intensity for 60 minutes, and didn't look tired. They are well-versed with the weather and the ground conditions, and it showed.
PR Sreejesh and rest of our defence did well in that phase. Sreejesh came up with two saves and Birendra Lakra did well too, especially when South Africa got a penalty corner. One or two goals then would have been a close match.
We have to understand that forwards will make some mistakes and 2-3 stray balls will come in your half. That is where the role of defence comes in; it is their responsibility to bail the side out in such tough situations.
My favourite goal was the one scored by Lalit Upadhyay in the third quarter. It was a wonderful field goal, and I truly enjoyed it.
India next play Belgium, and I know both teams will play a different game than what they did on Wednesday. It will be a match of very small margins. Both teams will commit very few errors, and whoever errs the least and capitalises on the opposition's mistakes will win.
I think the Belgium game will be decided by penalty corners. They have a very good goalkeeper, and I think the game will be decided by goalkeepers and drag-flickers.
To our team, I just want to say, play your heart out. You are playing at home, you have all the advantage. Just enjoy the occasion, play as a team, give your best, and the result will come automatically.
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