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September 14, 2000
Argentina remains India's bugbearScott McDonald
Four years after India's Olympic hockey dreams were stymied by a loss to Argentina, they are preparing for another crucial opening match with their South American rivals.
"That was a bad start for us, losing the first game to Argentina," Indian team manager Jothi Kandasamy said on Wednesday as he recalled the Atlanta Olympics.
The 1-0 loss to Argentina was the start of a terrible tournament which saw the once-mighty Indians slump to eighth, their worst-ever Olympic finish.
It was a far cry from the heights of the past when they won a total of eight Olympic golds, one silver and two bronze medals.
But Kandasamy said the team was optimistic again after a month of training in Australia for the opening match on Sunday.
"We have been able to train very well and the boys are in excellent form," he said.
"We have put in a lot of hard work."
Kandasamy said the team was a mix of new and experienced players and pointed to veterans Mukesh Nandnoori and Dhanraj Pillai as the team leaders.
Nandnoori has played in 290 internationals and Pillai in 360. Both are appearing in their third Olympics.
Also in India's group are South Korea, Poland, Spain, the silver medallist four years ago, and Australia, which took the bronze in Atlanta.
Defending champions Holland, Great Britain, Canada, Pakistan, Malaysia and Germany are in the other group.
Kandasamy dismissed some criticism in the Indian media that the team had been training on grass for a tournament on artificial turf.
"That's all wrong, no one trains on grass any more," he said.
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