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September 25, 2000
Crunch time for India, Pakistan
Former Olympic champions India and Pakistan both face must-win matches on Tuesday if they are to regain any of their past glory and advance to the semi-finals of the men's hockey tournament at the Sydney Games.
India, who have won eight Olympic golds but have finished out of the medals since their last title in 1980, have seven points and play Poland, already eliminated in Group B.
Group leaders Australia and South Korea, who both have eight points, play each other, so India need a win to overtake one of them for a semi-final berth.
Indian coach Baskaran Vasudevan, a member of India's last gold-medal winning team in the boycott-weakened Moscow Games 20 years ago, said his team is prepared for the game with Poland.
"Our players are very fit... They'll play better after two days rest (since a 3-2 win over Spain)," Vasudevan said.
"We are playing well so far, compared to past appearances where we were up and down. This Olympics we've had time to recover and we've learned from our last three games," he said.
Spain's coach Toni Forrellat also said he thought India would do well.
"India is playing magnificently and will do well," he said.
India have also been drawing support from Sydney's large Indian community.
"It felt just like we were playing at home," said Baljit Singh, who has scored three of India's eight goals.
Pakistan also must win their final match against Atlanta gold medallists The Netherlands to advance.
Pakistan, who have won the gold three times but had their worst-ever finish of sixth in Atlanta, have six points in Group A, which The Netherlands lead along with Germany with eight points each.
Germany play winless Britain in their last game.
Pakistan coach Ahmad Iftikhar said he was expecting a tough game against The Netherlands.
"Holland is a very good side. They are the champions... and they are playing very well here. We have to go all out against Holland," he said.
Pakistan have been led by penalty-short corner specialist Sohail Abbas, who has six of the team's 13 goals.
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