India’s men’s hockey team chief coach Roelant Oltmans conceded that Belgium played with much more quality and experience and deserved to progress to the semi-finals here on Sunday.
Striker Sebastian Dockeier struck twice in Belgium’s 3-1 triumph over India on Sunday putting paid to the latter’s hopes of making it to the semi-finals after a long gap of 36 years.
India, who last won an Olympic medal — a gold — at the 1980 Moscow Games, faced an aggressive Belgium side that scored thrice after conceding a goal against the run of play in the 15th minute.
Akashdeep Singh deflected from a close angle but Belgium hit back as Dockier equalised in the 34th minute.
Dockier gave Belgium the lead in the 45th minute and Tom Boon scored a field goal in the 50th minute to make it 3-1 — the scoreline that remained till the end.
It was a game that saw Belgium pressed higher from the push-back, pappering Indian goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh, who even though delivered a stunning show but it was not enough.
"The energy level of Belgium was very high. We didn’t bring in the quality that we brought in London (at the Champions Trophy in June). For the boys there’s was a lot of stress and pressure. Belgium took away the initiative and they deserved to win," Oltmans told reporters.
"You have to see where we come from. We have the youngest team in the competition and for most of them this is their first kind of experience. You do need experience to win this level of game."
Belgium are an experienced side, with the majority of the squad having surpassed the 100 international appearances mark including treble centurions John-John Dohmen and Jerome Truyens as well as double centurions Cedric Charlier, Thomas Briels, Felix Denayer and ace striker Tom Boon.
Reacting to the game, Oltmans felt that his side failed to create goal-scoring chances in the second half of the game as Belgum put enormous pressure.
"We played with full pressure, but full pressure, I always say, is a kind of bluff. There are always gaps. Later in the game, we tried to put full pressure and even took out the goalkeeper," the Dutchman said.
"We tried to close the gaps and tried a number of attacks, but in the third quarter we hardly saw any attacks at all. That’s where we have been lacking," he added.
"After taking out the goalkeeper in the end, we didn’t concede a goal but neither did we get goal scoring opportunities. We had only one or two opportunities and a break from the corner, but we didn’t succeed."
Captain Sreejesh also admitted that the team lacked the energy needed to win a crunch quarter-final.
"We needed to show more team unity and energy after the first goal. We need to improve that and we need to see these matches as do or die matches," he said.
"The game can change till the last moment in hockey, so it’s more important till the end how we concentrate and try to get a lead. In the second half they took away the initiative and they got enough penalty corners. We could have put more pressure and availed more chances, but our energy was not up to the mark," the ace goalkeeper added.
"When it comes to quarter finals, it’s a do or die match and that’s where we need to improve. We are happy that the team could reach the quarter finals, but the team we have had the potential of going higher. It’s bad for us and I am disappointed."