We missed Hardik in game against Wales: Akashdeep

Bhubaneswar, Jan 20:  India were far from being impressive in their 4-2 win over Wales in their final FIH Men’s Hockey World Cup pool game and twin goal scorer Akashdeep Singh said the home team felt the absence of injured midfielder Hardik Singh.

Hardik, who sustained a hamstring injury and missed the Wales match, is uncertain for the remainder of the tournament.

India needed to beat Wales by a margin of eight goals against Wales on Thursday to top Pool D and qualify directly for the quarterfinals. But they failed to do so and will now face New Zealand in their crossover match on Sunday to make it to the last eight stage.

“We could not score too many goals in the first two quarters, we scored only one. But we were able to score three more in the third and final quarters. I was able to contribute for the team, so I am very happy,” said the 28-year-old Akashdeep, who has played for more than 200 senior international matches.

“We could not make it to the quarterfinals directly but we hope to be there by winning our crossover match.”

Asked if the team felt the absence of injured Hardik, Akashdeep said, “Yes, when you have 18 players to play for a team, and because of some reason if you are one player less, the remaining players will play more time and become tired.

“So, definitely we felt his absence. I feel he will recover in time for the next match and play against New Zealand. It’s a do or die match against New Zealand. We are physically and mentally ready for the match.”

Hardik, who scored a brilliant goal against Spain with a solo effort, got injured in the goalless draw against England. Head coach Graham Reid said a decision on his availability will be taken a day before the crossover match against New Zealand.                    India and Wales were 2-2 at the end of the third quarter but Akashdeep restored India’s lead in the first minute of the fourth quarter with a fine field goal as his thunderous reverse shot beat the Wales goalkeeper all ends up.

“We played according to the plan we had decided before the match. It was difficult to score as they (Wales) have 10 men in their circle. Hopefully, we can do better (in scoring goals) in the next match against New Zealand,” Akashdeep said.

“All the teams have become better while defending penalty corners. But definitely, we can improve upon that also,” said the player from Punjab, who was in good form in the five-match series against Australia just before the World Cup.

Asked if he was satisfied with the outcome of the match, Akashdeep said, “No player or team is never satisfied with the performance, there is always room for improvement. There is no perfect match and players make mistakes. We will be satisfied if we learn from those mistakes.”

Captain Harmanpreet Singh, who scored his first goal from penalty corners in the match against Wales, said his side need improvement in some aspects of the game.

“The coach said we were lacking a bit of energy as compared to the matches against Spain and England. We need to play the ball more upfront and convert the chances that came our way. So, we will try to improve on these things,” said the captain.

Reid said India ought to take positives from the below par performance, and reminded the players that nothing is easy.

“We were behind the game at the back a little bit too much. But when we have to dig deep, which we did (against Wales), we are in good stead for the next stage. The players fought against Wales and that is what pleased me, though we lacked finishing and could not simply put the ball in (the opposition goal).

“We lost our first match in the 2014 World Cup, 2018 (WC) was an unusual one (qualifying directly to the quarterfinals after topping pool). So we have to fight our way now.” (PTI)