India fought valiantly before losing 4-3 to defending champions South Korea in the final of the ninth Asia Cup hockey tournament in Ipoh on Sunday and the players feel that a bad umpiring decision at the fag end of the match cost them the title. (Match report | Match in pics)
Australian umpire Murray Grime awarded Korea a penalty corner just two minutes from the hooter when Rupinderpal Singh tackled a Korean forward inside the circle, but the Indian players feel it was wrong judgement by the umpire and the tackle was a clean one. (Match highlights)
"The last penalty corner which Korea got was wrongly given. By no chance it was a penalty corner. It was a clean tackle from Rupinder, but the umpire debated that he deliberately did it," an Indian player said on condition of anonymity.
The resultant penalty corner hurt India badly as Kang Moon Kweon made no mistake with the chance and converted it to shatter the hopes of handful of Indian supporters present at the Sultan Azlan Shah Stadium.
"The umpiring cost us the match. We came here with one purpose to win the tournament. But in the end we are happy with the way we played here," another player said.
Asked India's interim coach Roelant Oltmans about the decisive penalty corner, he simply said: "It's better not to say anything about it."
Disappointed to have faltered at the final hurdle, Oltmans nevertheless said the players should be proud of their performance in the ninth edition of the Asia Cup.
"Obviously, I am disappointed with the end result but we are proud of the way we came back into the game. In the first half we didn't play well but in the second half we really played outstanding hockey. We scored two fantastic goals," he said.
"This team has fought with its heart out. We became strong as a team with every game. The way we played in this tournament we should be proud of ourselves," Oltmans said.
"It will take a little bit time. We have to play this kind of finals more often. I remember when I started with Holland we lost first three finals before winning 10 in a row. So, hopefully this a good start," he added.
A win in the Asia Cup would have given India a direct entry into next year's World Cup at The Hague, Netherlands.
But nevertheless, the Indians are virtually assured of place in the showpiece event, the official confirmation of which will come only after the conclusion of the Oceania Cup in November, which either Australia or New Zealand is expected to win.
"We will have to wait for either New Zealand or Australia to win the Oceania Cup. Normally one of these two teams win the Oceania Cup. So we are quite certain that at least we will be in the World Cup. It is an important achievement but we came here to win the Asia Cup and we were close," Oltmans said.
Oltmans praised his young forwardline and said it was good to see competition for places in the team.
"Our young forwards did a very good job. They scored two good goals today. I am pleased to see that a number of good forwards are coming up in Indian hockey. There are few more players who are not here. So there will be a fight among them to make it to the team," the Dutchman said.