Ipoh: The mood in the Indian hockey team was downcast and introspective on Friday in the wake of its worst-ever defeat at the hands of New Zealand that has pushed the twice defending champion out of medal contention in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.
India, who share with Australia the record of winning the Azlan Shah Cup five times, came into the tournament with the hopes of completing a hat-trick of titles after winning outright in 2009 and being joint champions with South Korea in 2010.
But they fell out of medal contention after successive losses to Pakistan and New Zealand in the last two outings.
"We came so close to finishing on the podium, and then we threw it all away," said Indian chief coach Harendra Singh, who joined other coaches and team manager Balbir Singh, this morning for a session with the players in trying to lift their morale.
"We played two good games, and they were against teams like Britain and Australia, but they way we gifted goals to New Zealand yesterday does raise a few pertinent questions," said Harendra, still not able to come out of the shattering blow delivered by New Zealand, who scored five goals in the second session to outplay India 7-3.
"We're aware that the players are dejected at their display. Five of the seven goals on Thursday were virtual gifts presented to the opposition," said Harendra.
"If you do that, and that too in one match after another, you simply can't sustain in international hockey. We had a video session in which we reviewed the match with the team, and even they can't believe the manner in which the goals were gifted away," he said.
Harendra said the Indian team has to learn from this performance.
"As players we need to see why we're repeating the same mistakes. It became almost like a repeat show ... the same mistakes, in the same situation at the same time in the match," Harendra said.
The way the Indian defence crumbled on Thursday was a repeat of some earlier matches in this tournament, when they squandered the gains of a good show in the first session, where India played well in almost every outing.
It was only in the match against Britain which India won 3-1 that they did not allow too many gaps in their defence. They even showed plenty of nerves in the victory over Malaysia. It was just the match against world champions Australia in which India were able to absorb the sustained pressure to manage a 1-1 draw.
"We have to show some character, put the skills into application in match situations. We're simply forgetting to use the passing options, and don't get to clear the ball. It's becoming a crazy situation," said Harendra.
"I just can't figure out why we're giving the passes to the rivals on a platter," said Harendra, who on Thursday criticised the players for the first time.
"I have a lot of faith in players, and still feel these very players will emerge stronger from this experience," he said.
"But the boys need to introspect and look back at the mistakes that have been consistently repeating," Harendra added.
India will not know who their opponents will be in Sunday's match for the fifth and sixth positions.
This will only be known only after Saturday's fixtures are completed. The Indian players were given a rest day from training on Friday, as the team management sought to divert their minds from the debacle.
Olympic and world champions Australia are the only team assured of a place in the final. Britain, Pakistan and even New Zealand are still fighting it out for a place in the final.