‘Practice on set pieces paid off against the Netherlands’, says Indian junior hockey team head coach CR Kumar

‘Practice on set pieces paid off against the Netherlands’, says Indian junior hockey team head coach CR Kumar

Indian junior hockey team take on Germany for a place in the final.

The Indian Junior Hockey team has been on an incredible run in the FIH Hockey Men’s Junior World Cup 2023. After a series of intense matches, the Indian colts, has secured their place in the semifinals, set to take place on Thursday, 14th December 2023, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia against Germany.

India’s journey so far has been a testament to their tenacity. They started strong with a 4-2 victory against Korea. Despite a setback in the form of a 4-1 defeat to Spain, the team did not lose heart. They bounced back with a commanding 10-1 win over Canada, showcasing their ability to learn from their losses and come back stronger.

Their second-place finish in Pool C was a significant achievement, but the highlight of their journey was undoubtedly the quarter-final match against the Netherlands, where the Indian colts staged a remarkable comeback, securing a thrilling 4-3 victory on the back of captain Uttam Singh’s late goal.

Following his commendable performance against the Netherlands, captain Uttam Singh, along with head coach CR Kumar, attended a press conference to discuss the team’s win against the Netherlands in the quarterfinals. They also shared insights on the impending semi-final match against Germany.

Thoughts on the dramatic comeback against the Netherlands

India staged a remarkable comeback to defeat the Netherlands 4-3. Despite being 2-0 down at half-time, India rallied in the third quarter with goals from Aditya Lalage and Araijeet Singh Hundal. Soon after, the Dutch regained lead, but India equalised through Sourabh Kushwaha and took the lead for the first time in the match with a goal from Uttam Singh through penalty corner.

Reflecting on the match, India’s captain Uttam Singh shared, “When we were trailing 2-0, I reminded the team that it’s not always necessary to be ahead. We needed to stick to the game plan and tactics laid out by our coach. We had practiced our set pieces several times, and with just few minutes remaining, we executed one of them perfectly to secure the win.”

Head coach CR Kumar expressed his strategy saying, “We were well aware that European teams try to dominate in the first two quarters. Our plan was to defend during these quarters. Unfortunately, we couldn’t score then, but we went all out in the third and fourth quarters. Our practice on set pieces paid off in the end.”

Keeping emotion and balance in check while trailing

CR Kumar highlighted the role of seasoned players in maintaining calm in precarious position. He said, “Our team is fortified by the presence of five seasoned players, each of whom has had the experience of playing in the last world cup. These players are the pillars of our team, consistently emphasizing the importance of a solid game plan and tactical execution. Their wisdom and experience played a crucial role in maintaining composure and keeping emotions in check, especially when were trailing in the game”

Captain Uttam Kumar also voiced his thought process, “Down by two, but never out. If they can net two in the first half-hour, why can’t we strike back with two of our own in the final stretch? Remember, the game’s outcome isn’t sealed until the last whistle sings!”

He further iterated, “participation in the world cup is an honor, but the ultimate glory lies in victory. Our dream is not just to play, but to win. India tasted this triumph in 2001 and 2016, and we yearn for it once more. The world cup is not just a tournament, it’s our dream.”

Impending German clash

The stage is set for a thrilling encounter as India prepares to face Germany in the semi-finals of the FIH Hockey Men’s Junior World Cup 2023. This clash comes with a sense of deja Vu, as the German team had previously triumphed over the India with a 6-3 victory in the Sultan of Johor Cup semi-final.

As the anticipation builds, CR Kumar quipped, “Our history with Germany on the hockey field is extensive. We’ve faced them more times than any other European team. This has given us invaluable experience and strategic insights.”

He further elaborates on the team’s strategy, “We’ve devised a game plan based on our past encounters and current understanding of their gameplay. The key to turning the tide in our favor lies in the execution of these plans. If we adhere to our strategy, we can tilt the result in our favor.”

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