India began its quest for a berth in the World Cup on a buoyant note in the Asia Cup hockey championship on Saturday. The 8-0 win against Oman in Pool B projected a modicum of rhythm and consistency even granting the fact that it was Oman’s first appearance in this competition.
Too much of a dissection over the outcome can lead to a distorted picture. Roelant Oltmans, head coach, observed just that in the post match briefing.
He agreed the win was an encouraging sign, but was candid enough to concede the team swayed away from concentrating more in the final minutes.
He underlined the fact that the team had netted four goals in each half and expressed happiness over the field goals by Mandeep Singh and Ramandeep Singh.
The pre-match apprehension that Sardar Singh was unwell to the point of skipping the opener proved a baseless alarm. He was very much on the field and showed no signs of fatigue or illness.
In fact, he exhibited glimpses of his proficiency in feeding the forwards among whom Nithin Thimmiah shaped well. The lithe forward slithered through the defenders quite a few times displaying delectable body dodges.
What stood out in the show of Mandeep Singh, declared the man of the match, was his sense of opportunism. And the same was true for Ramandeep Singh. In the mid-field Chinglensana and Dharamvir were conspicuous as were Birendra Lakra and Amit Rohitdass.
While scoring was never difficult against the Omani defenders, there were moments which remained etched in the mind.
The reverse flick for the fifth goal by Mandeep off a centre from Chenglensana was eye catching as the impeccable penalty corner by Rupinder Pal Singh.
Former champion Pakistan came up with a stunning first half display slamming six goals against Japan in Pool A and finished the encounter 7-0.
With an exit from the World Cup staring in the face Pakistan looks determined to recapture the top spot, a must if it is to be at The Hague.
Two splendid goals by Waqas triggered a sort of a goal-riot as Japan’s defenders looked like babes in the wood. True, they did recover in the second half but it was too late to make an impression.
Debutant Chinese Taipei shocked many by scoring first against host Malaysia before bowing to the pressure exerted by stars like Faisal Saari and Muhammad Firhan who scored three goals each, in Pool A. Malaysia won eventually 10-2.
The results: Pool A: Pakistan 7 (Waqas Muhammad 2, Abdul Hashim Khan, Tousiq Muhammad 2, Muhammad Imran 2) bt Japan 0.
Malaysia 8 (Faisal Saari 3, Muhammad Firhan 3, Muhammad Marhan, Izwan Firdus, Nabil Fiqri, Muhammad Fitri) bt Chinese Taipei 2 (Lue Ching Kun, Tseng Hsien Yi) HT 5-1.
Pool B: India 8 (Mandeep Singh 2, Ramandeep Singh 2, Raghunath, Rupinder Pal Singh, Malak Singh, Uthappa) beat Oman 0.
Sunday’s matches: Korea v Bangladesh (1.35 p.m.), Japan v Chinese Taipei (3.35 p.m.); Pakistan v Malaysia (5.35 p.m.).