Junior hockey World Cup: Germany’s half-court press could get tricky; but India have the surprise up their sleeve

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After surviving a wave of Belgian attacks through some stubborn defending, India will take on an opponent, Germany, in the Junior World Cup semifinal that is diametrically opposite, both in terms of style and mentality.

Man marking

Unlike Belgium, who played zonal, which gave India a chance to intercept passes and play within their own comfort level – given that they, too, play a similar style – Germany employed man-to-man marking in their quarterfinal against Spain.

If they play a similar style against India, it could choke the team’s creative outlets like captain Vivek Sagar Prasad, who plays as centre-half. When Prasad is given space and time in the midfield, he is able to use his pace and agility to receive a pass and release the forwards with his natural instinct to play an attacking ball. However, given his short stature – he’s 5’3” – he can be outmuscled if Germany’s bulky midfielders mark him closely.

The same goes for the forwards, who might have to play in combinations of two or three to get behind their markers. It’s a style India haven’t played until now, so if Germany play the same way as they did against Spain, it could get tricky for India.

Half-court press

India is a side that likes to counterattack. Belgium, who played high up, allowed India to use their blinding speed to move forward. But Germany have so far played a half-court press, keeping all players behind the half-line to block the midfield and force the passes towards the sidelines.

This means India will have to take the initiative and attack, which isn’t necessarily the team’s strong point. Germany will wait for India to make mistakes and hit them on the break with every loss of possession. For India, the opportunity can come every time one of the players steps out of position, which can be a possibility in a system that demands a high level of discipline.

Tricks up India’s sleeves

But, as they showed against Belgium, India have been creative in their approach and have had the audacity to be innovative even in crunch situations.

The penalty corner variation – and the fact that they were okay not to let their main drag-flicker take the only corner chance that fell their way – against Belgium was evidence of this. It indicated the depth of talent in this team, which has not one but several players who have stepped up when the situation has demanded.

While Sanjay Kumar was the team’s hero in the group stages, in the quarterfinals, it was the calm defensive work of Yashdeep Siwach and Sharda Nand Tiwari – who also scored the goal – and sharp goalkeeping by Pawan which contributed to the win.

Tiwari has said India have more tricks up their sleeves for the semifinals against Germany. “We’ll showcase them one by one, we have a few more surprises,” he said.

Semifinals line-up:

4.30 pm: France vs Argentina

7.30 pm: India vs Germany

Live on Star Sports Network

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