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September 19, 2000
We gifted them a draw: CedricCedric D'souza
A fair result for both India and Australia as they tie 2-2?
It's been a couple of decades since we have had the Australians on the defensive, and if one goes by past performances, then, yes, one can safely say that a draw was a favourable result for us.
However, I would like to add that we gave Australia a lease of life, let them inside and gifted them the draw.
We should have won this one. We were in the lead twice and should have closed out the game by keeping possession, crowding the defence and slowing the tempo.
Both the coaches -- Vasudevan Bhaskaran and Terry Walsh -- have said that their teams are going for the gold. Which means that they knew how important this crucial game was in terms of their plans. Both had said that "the match would hinge on which team would dominate the midfield". They had said no favours will be given and each player will really fight for his team's dominance in every quarter of the field. So, the outcome certainly is a fair result for both.
The game highlights and thrills:
It was a visual delight and probably the best match of the tournament so far. The game was played at a furious pace with both teams not giving an inch as they fought it out to control the midfield. Both defences, with their clean anticipation, interceptions and tackling, had to work overtime. Credit is due to the Aussie defence for keeping the rampaging Baljit Dhillon, Mukesh Kumar and Dhanraj Pillay at bay. And ditto to ours, for being able to block out the likes of Micheal Brennan, Troy Elder, Jay Stacy and Steven Davies.
The great goalline save by Dilip Tirkey, which could have turned the tide in Australia's favour, when goalkeeper Jude Menezes, who had another fine match, was out of position, speaks volumes for the fighting qualities of this team.
The statistics? Quite even. India: 11 shots at goal; Australia: 12.
Penalty-corners: India 3, Australia 5
Saves by the goalkeepers: India 7, Australia 8.
A word on the goals.India took the lead in the first minute. India did exactly what the Aussies normally do to the rest of the world - - aggression from the first pushback. Well, here we gave them a taste of their own medicine as Pillay stole the ball and carried it at his characteristic lightning speed, wove past Holt and passed to Mukesh, who reverse hit the ball past a helpless Delliti. Brilliant hockey, especially the clinical finish!
Australia equalised in the fourth minute. The sheer pace of Jay Stacy's direct hit beat goalkeeper Menezes. Stacy, it must be mentioned, is one of the hardest and most effective penalty-corner strikers in the world today. There was nothing Menezes could do to stop that ball from going into the goal.
India took the lead again in the 25th minute. From our third penalty-corner (the first two were muffed), Baljit Dhillon drag flicked the ball to the right of Delletti to score. The powerful, accurate flick beat a world class goalkeeper hands down.
Australia equalised in the 51st minute. Stacy was fortunate to pick up the ball as a helpless Ramandeep lost balance and fell. He looked up, watched the gap and let fly a super cross ball right past our defenders, who I must say here were guilty of ball-watching. The ball came to Craig Victory, who slammed it home in a trice to level the scores.
Critical factors that need immediate attention: Too much carrying of the ball. Our boys must make more use of give and go. Excessive dribbling must be curbed. Because when possession lost, there is a danger of facing a furious counter attack. Still, too much space is being given. While facing players who are faster off the blocks, we cannot allow room for counter attacks. Besides, after dispossessing a player we should not permit him time to undertake his defensive duties.
Next match versus Korea: We are now going to face Korea, a team that is very fit and fast, but not been able to produce results that were expected of them. They are raring to go and are still smarting from the Asian Games defeat in 1998. I am sure the team management will take cognizance of this fact and plan accordingly.
In brief, this is what I would suggest: Slow down the game and try not to match their speed. Keep Son Seong Tae in check. Be vary of giving penalty-corners because they have excellent flickers in Woon Kon Yeo and Kim Yong Bae. Keep hustling them and don't allow them too much room. And lastly, keep switching the game. That done we will sure be able to beat them, and with that seal a place in the semi-finals.
The team is almost there. All it needs is to stay focused.
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