Harendra Singh
Inframe : Harendra Singh / Photo Credits : Hockey India

Chief India coach Harendra Singh on Saturday said for him the pool matches were a four-nation event and the real World Cup begins now after the hosts grabbed a direct entry into the quarterfinal with a 5-1 thrashing of Canada here.

India topped Pool C with seven points on account of a better goal difference than Olympic silver medallist Belgium and will play their quarterfinal game on December 13.

“Those who have visited my room know I have already written who we will play in the quarterfinals and who in the semifinals. For me, a four-nation tournament has finished and the World Cup starts now,” Harendra said.

“From quarterfinals, you can smell a medal. The actual tournament starts with the next game.”

Harendra said India were guilty of running too much with the ball in search of goals in the opening two quarters.

“We are missing in the final pass, we were running for goals. We have to wait for our moment, can’t rush towards the ball. I think the first half, we did too much running,” he said.

“We were too much in a hurry. We were lacking in the final execution. I think we have to throw out the childish instinct.”

He, however, rued the fact that India failed to keep a clean slate.

“We were running for the ball. I want the players to tackle irrespective of their position. We failed to keep a clean sheet and I feel bad about it,” Harendra said.

“By conceding you give away the momentum to opponents. It puts pressure on the (future) opponents when they see the team has kept a clean sheet.

“This team doesn’t look into any other team’s bedroom. Our target was 6-0, we won 5-1. This team is working on that for the last 4-5 years. We have a target and we know if we achieve that we will reach where we want to,” he added.

Despite leading 5-1, India removed goalkeeper PR Sreejesh for a kicking back with three minutes remaining and Harendra said it was a premeditated tactic.

“I should have done (removed goalkeeper) 3 minutes ago. It was decided that in the 8th minute we will remove, but we missed that somehow. Irrespective of the result, we had decided we will take out the keeper (shortly before the end),” he said.

The coach informed that skipper Manpreet Singh didn’t play the full match as he was unwell.

“We knew Manpreet was having a cough and sore throat. We could not use him for the entire match. So, we had one less midfielder. That’s why Lalit’s (Upadhyay) role changed. I pulled Lalit back a little,” Harendra said.

Man-of-the-match Lalit, who scored two goals on Saturday, said their main focus was to maintain the structure.

“As the coach told us, our structure and energy should be the focus. We were going all out. He (coach) knows each and every player, how to use them. He wants us to play fearlessly,” he said