Manpreet Singh & Co were humiliated by Australia, the best-ranked team in the world. The scoreline was a humbling 7-1 in their Pool A face-off. India, who play Spain on Tuesday, will hope to regroup in time but the scars of this defeat are bound to remain.
This was India’s worst defeat at an Olympics against Australia, with the previous one being a 1-6 loss at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, a year in which many Indian players played on the artificial surface for the first time.
The Indian team, which beat New Zealand 3-2 in their opening fixture on Saturday, clearly failed to turn up. It almost felt like the win over Kiwis was all bluff and bluster.
In hindsight, the performance suggested that they misread the Australian unit, or the latter saw through their opponent’s shortcomings clearly. One of the basic counters to Australia’s plans is to keep possession of the ball for long spells which often puts them under the pump.
But against a side which was all class and craft, the Indian team failed to get into the groove. The defence was in complete disarray and were found wanting on basics like man-to-man marking. Such was their plight that on more than one occasion, Sreejesh was the lone man standing when the Australian’s attacked India’s circle.
The midfield, which should have sustained itself instead of spreading out, was disappointing. The less said the better about the young strike force. Striker Shamsher Singh didn’t seem to spot the goalpost while the others did not hold on to the ball long enough to make an impact, which resulted in a shooting efficiency as low as 13%. Also, the concept of counterattacks was forgotten. Australia were poetry in motion, outnumbering the Indian strikers when their goal was under threat and played full press at crucial junctures.
In the 10th minute, Jake Whetton’s pass from outside the circle was tapped in by Daniel Beale. Jeremy Hayward doubled the lead in the 21 minutes with a penalty corner conversion, which opened the floodgates with three goals coming in the span of five minutes as Andrew Ogilvie (23) and Joshua Beltz (26) got their names on the scoresheet. Dilpreet pulled one back for India in the 34th minute but it was too little too late as the relentless attacks continued as Blake Govers (40, 42) and Tim Brands (51) added to the tally.