Bhubaneswar: An out-and-out striker, Akashdeep Singh excelled in the role of a linkman in India’s hockey World Cup opener against South Africa and chief coach Harendra Singh on Wednesday said the forward was used in a new position because of his terrific peripheral vision.
Akashdeep impressed all and sundry in his new role as linkman by not only setting up a goal for Lalit Upadhyay but also scoring one in India’s 5-0 rout of South Africa in their Pool C opener.
Asked about Akashdeep’s performance, Harendra said: “He (Akashdeep) has very good peripheral vision and so we used him little down from his usual position as linkman. He is lethal as a linkman and we have three strikers floating inside the circle. If you go back 15 years, Dhanraj (Pillay) changed his role from the 2002 World Cup. He became a playmaker and Deepak (Thakur) and Prabhjot (Singh) scored. I am very happy with Akash. He is taking the lead. In every department we have a leader. I hope we continue that way throughout the tournament,” the visibly delighted coach added.
Harendra said keeping a clean slate was the most positive outcome from Wednesday’s game. “The match sheet, which is clean, is a positive sign. It means defence, i.e. all 11 for them, played well. They came out and snatched the ball at the right moment, didn’t throw their sticks,” he said.
India got five penalty corners on Wednesday but failed to score a single goal with a direct shot. “What matters for me is to score goals from penalty corners, it may come via direct shot or any other way and we did score twice from penalty corners,” he said.
Harendra admitted that after an impressive first half, India were a bit complacent in the third quarter, which allowed South Africa to create a few chances. “I think during third quarter somewhere we were a little bit complacent,” he said. “The moment they were 2-0 down, they pulled one of their back three up to an extra midfielder. But we regrouped well (after surviving those chances). They were smelling one goal. But we didn’t let that happen.”
South Africa coach Mark Hokins was obviously disappointed with the outcome of the match. “I am disappointed with the result. We didn’t execute our plans. The difference in this level is to take your chances. We didn’t and they (India) did. We need to take key moments in the game,” he said.