World Cup: How Nicely-armoured First Rushers Are Efficiently Thwarting The Menace Of Pcs


The one time Harmanpreet Singh has discovered the backboard within the World Cup was when the goalkeeper was not on the pitch.

On Thursday, with seconds left within the match, Wales determined to take off their custodian Toby Reynolds-Cotterill for an additional outfield participant. Trying to find an equaliser, they as an alternative ended up conceding a penalty nook – for the seventh time within the match.

Wales had defended the earlier six with aplomb. Nonetheless, with nobody however 4 defenders to beat, Harmanpreet saved it easy: straight, low and down the center. It was India’s third objective from 16 penalty nook makes an attempt within the World Cup, poor returns for a crew that invests so many sources and time within the set piece.

However India aren’t alone.

The artwork of drag-flicking appears to have deserted a number of the best exponents, as groups have struggled to profit from what was as soon as a dependable goal-scoring methodology for them. Contemplate these:

* Germany naturalised a former Argentine worldwide primarily due to his exploits from penalty corners. Nonetheless, they’ve transformed only one out of their seven corners earlier than Friday night’s match towards South Korea, with Gonzalo Peillat but to get off the mark.

* Belgium have the most effective drag-flickers round – Alexander Hendrickx. However like Harmanpreet, he too has scored simply as soon as thus far whereas the reigning world champions’ report from corners is worse than India’s – solely two targets from 18 makes an attempt.

This displays a bigger pattern. Earlier than Friday’s video games, solely 32 targets had been scored from penalty corners at this World Cup out of 195 possibilities. Coaches usually maintain a conversion charge of 1 in three penalty corners as par for the course. At Odisha 2023, that common has doubled – one in six penalty corners are profitable, making it one of many lowest conversion charges ever at a World Cup.

‘First rusher saving greater than goalies’

The coaches, in a single voice, appear certain concerning the cause for this decline. It isn’t something to do with the standard of drag-flicking, they are saying. As an alternative, it’s the improved defence. Extra particularly, the primary rushers.

First rushers are maybe probably the most brave bunch in hockey. Because the identify suggests, they’re first off the blocks from the four-man defence, excluding the goalkeeper, throughout quick corners, working straight on the ball that’s usually flicked at a pace of greater than 100kmph.

The rusher’s job is to dash the 12m from the objective line – the place he’s positioned – to the highest of the D – from the place the flick is taken – inside seconds and shut down the angle. React sluggish, even when by a hundredth of a second, you both put your self in peril or your crew.

Gregg Clark, India’s analytical coach, cites the top of the range working by former captain Manpreet Singh towards England and Belgium’s Victor Wegnez as examples of ‘unbelievable’ speeding and able to put their ‘our bodies on the road’.

Netherlands coach Jeroen Delmee says the rushers are saving extra flicks than goalkeepers in the mean time. “That’s the principle cause, the best way they block the shot,” Delmee provides. “The share of photographs blocked by the primary runner is about 50. So, I feel the primary runner is stopping extra photographs than the goalies in the mean time.”

It isn’t by likelihood. Like penalties in soccer, groups are spending increasingly time finding out their opponents and their drag-flick routines, after which spend much more time coaching for it. Every crew, on the finish of a coaching session, spends no less than quarter-hour practising penalty nook assault and defence.

Stats from a defensive perspective

England coach Paul Revington factors out that the rationale quick corners appear extra deadly than they really are is due to the best way it’s introduced, particularly by the broadcasters.

“All of the stats usually are given across the attacking crew,” Revington says. “I feel it is going to be attention-grabbing if, on TV, they provide stats a couple of participant from a defensive perspective. To view the standard of the working, waves, traces… all these from different sports activities are crucial.”

The gradual rule adjustments, which now permit defenders to put on protecting gear, have made defending penalty corners simpler and contributed to the declining conversion charges.

Till a decade in the past, the gamers had been solely allowed to put on gloves and a skinny face masks. However now, they’ve a whole package arrange behind the objective, which they put on within the 40-second break to take the corners.

The FIH fears the tools might give gamers a false sense of security whereas defending the corners. However their fears have thus far confirmed unfounded. What it has as an alternative executed is create a degree taking part in discipline no less than in a single side of the sport.

Wales had been no match for India when it comes to particular person ability and magnificence. However when it got here all the way down to penalty corners, they’d a defensive battery that was equal to the duty. They annoyed Harmanpreet, whose efforts had been both not lifting off the bottom or had been being blocked by the rushers and the goalkeeper. They efficiently blocked Amit Rohidas and Varun Kumar’s one-dimensional flicks as properly.

It stays to be seen if India had been retaining a few of their playing cards near the chest, getting ready to unveil methods and variations within the knockout part of the World Cup.

Nonetheless, it received’t be straightforward. “Simply the extent of the World Cup,” Delmee, the Dutch coach, says. “You could have the most effective runners and the most effective goalies and that’s making it exhausting.”

Written by Mihir Vasavda



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