Even if India managed to defeat France 3-2 in the opening match of the Hockey World League Semifinals in Antwerp, Belgium on Saturday, their performance was below par. The Indian team need to improve their game when they face Poland on Tuesday.
Despite being ranked 18th in the world, France nearly held India to a 2-2 draw, which would have been a disappointing start, especially with India set to face teams such as Australia and Pakistan in the group stages.
India scored in the dying minutes of the game to secure full three points.
The Indian team were weak in their defence and were caught a number of times by the pacy French forwards. Coach Paul van Ass felt that his side allowed too much space inside their own territory.
"Winning the first match is the important thing. What was significant was not that we allowed the rivals too much space inside our territory, but the fact that we managed to score the third goal and earn full points," PTI quoted Van Ass.
If the Indian defenders come up with a similar performance, Poland, who too can use speed to good effect, will capitalise. Poland, who put up a brave fight against Pakistan in their last match, which the Asian team won, cannot be taken lightly.
The Polish team showed that they have not come to Belgium just to make up the numbers, as they impressed with their organised play against Pakistan. The Indian defenders need to be cautious as they cannot afford to give away penalty corners with Poland's Pawel Bratkowski a dangerous drag-flicker.
"You cannot take any rival likely. The world rankings do not matter when you step on to the field," said Sardar Singh. The India skipper, Sardar Singh needs to lead from the front and get the best out of his players as well.
The Indian team are missing the services of VR Raghunath, who is one of the best drag-flickers. Raghunath was ruled out, after he suffered an injury during training camp.
Van Ass, who took over the duties of the coach in March, has already brought in some changes to India's game. They were decent in the Azlan Shah Cup, where India won bronze in April.
Against France as well, India were playing together as a unit. The team in blue will get better once they get used to van Ass' strategies.
India can play this competition without any pressure as they have already qualified for the Rio Olympics and have booked a Hockey World League finals berth as the host nation.
But, Sardar Singh states they are not in Belgium for a vacation, but to win the tournament.
"We are not tourists at this tournament, certainly not," said Sardar. "We may have already qualified for the Olympics, but we certainly want to perform well going into the World League Finals that India will host later in the year.
"We want to do well here as much at any other team."
Where to Watch Live
The Hockey World League Semi-Final match between India and Poland has been scheduled for 4pm local time (7:30pm IST) start with live TV coverage in India on Star Sports 1 and Stars Sports 1HD and live streaming option on starsports.com
Ireland and Great Britain viewers can follow it live on Sky Sports, with the live stream option on Sky Go, while audience in Pakistan can switch to PTV for live coverage.
Viewers in Belgium can watch the game live in Telenet, while Australian viewers can catch the action live on Fox Sports and Foxtel.
Asian along with Italian viewers can watch it online on starsports.com.