India were thrashed 4-0 by hosts Belgium when the two teams met in the HWL Semifinals at Antwerp in July this year. Now, the Red Lions are on Indian soil and its payback time for the hosts.
Having avenged a series of defeats to Great Britain – seven in last 10 matches – in the quarterfinals of the Hero Hockey World League Final here on Thursday, hosts India take on Belgium in the semifinals hoping for another evening of inspired play.
They have a score to settle with Belgians too.
India had also lost to Belgium in the inaugural edition of the HWL Final in New Delhi in January 2014, but managed to beat the Red Lions 4-2 in last year’s Champions Trophy in Bhubaneswar.
Roelant Oltmans’ team produced their best performance in recent times in the 2-1 win against Great Britain on Thursday. They repelled everything that the British threw at them and for the first time in this event, their forwards too came good.
Saturday will be another day and the Indians would be hoping for another inspirational performance.
But inconsistency has been the bane of Indian hockey over the years and has plagued the team here too. They have had highs and troughs, like the poor show against Argentina followed by a superb performance against Germany, the defeat against the Netherlands followed by a brilliant show against Great Britain.
Eyes on medal
So which Indian side will show up on Saturday – the good or the poor one? Nobody knows.
“If you ask me whether we will be able to give a performance like this again then frankly speaking I am not sure about it,” coach Roelant Oltmans said after the win against Great Britain.
“But of course in the next two days we will work towards that.
It’s nice to be in the semifinal but it’s time to win a medal in a major tournament and this is a major tournament and that’s what we are aiming for,” the coach added.
Belgium coach Shane McLeod termed playing India in India a big challenge.
“A secret wish of mine was having the guys experience playing India in India. It’s a fantastic opportunity for the guys and there will be big crowd in. And India, the way they played against Great Britain — when they have a game to play, they certainly play. they are going to be a really tough opponent,” said the Belgium coach.
India have reached the semifinals of the Hockey World League for the first time and as Oltmans said, it is time they won a medal in a major FIH tournament.