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September 28, 2000
We lost equilibrium and focus: Cedric
Watching the match between India and Great Britain it was obvious that the team had not got over the disappointment of not making the semis. There was a lack of purpose and motivation was at its lowest ebb. Well, this was my fear, having faced the same scenario at Atlanta.
Great Britain went into the match under tremendous pressure. They get their funding from the national lottery, which is directly linked to the team's performance. Thus, if they had not maintained a top six finish, future funding would have been a questionable.
At the beginning of the tournament, in Pool A, Britain had lost 4-2 to Holland; they were trounced by Pakistan 8-1, and things looked really bleak for them. Then came the draws with Malaysia and Canada before their best match, when they upset all calculations by beating Germany 2-1. This ensured them a place in the 5-8 placing matches. For all their efforts they certainly deserve a pat on the back. This, for me, is mental strength -- the bull dog spirit, to come back when the chips are down.
With the appointment of Australian Barry Dancer as national coach, British hockey has imbibed a good measure of Aussie aggression in their play.
Although the game was evenly poised, it must be said that the British players' body language and determination to win was more apparent. In attack, we continued to carry the ball and lose it time and again in their 25, whilst in defense we made the same mistakes of ball watching, not closing down and, most importantly, not having any cover defence. In short they played to their strengths -- quick first time passes and running off the ball (give and go), using width and rotating play by quick switching, and playing on the break.
10th minute. We went into the lead from a Dilip Tirkey direct penalty-corner that deflected off goalkeeper Simon Mason's outstretched stick when he was in a logged position.
16th minute. Their equaliser came from good switching in our 25, with an equally good release from behind our defence. The ball was played from the left by Craig Farnham to Danny Hall on top of the circle, where he was left unmarked. Hall played the return ball back to his left for Craig, who had run into the gap stealing behind Saini. Without wasting any time, he took a hard flick to the left of goalkeeper Jude, who partially parried the ball but couldn't prevent it from going to the top left hand corner of the goal.
46th minute. The winner. We allowed them a penalty-corner and Culam Giles strode up and fired true to the boards past a helpless Jude, who again put up another good show.
Worse was to come. Dhillon was being harried whilst running with the ball and in frustration he retaliated by hitting David Hacker. The result: a yellow card. Again we were down to 10 men. After the match there were scenes that could have really got out of hand as our players were argued with the match officials.
We lost, and no mater what, the umpire is not going to change his decision. There is no point in antagonizing the man and making a spectacle of ourselves. It is far better to maintain decorum by showing dignity in defeat; this is the true quality of a sportsman and what we term sportsman spirit.
In sum, we lost our equilibrium and focus while Great Britain showed us how to play modern hockey when a goal up. They controlled the pace and held possession to tactically outmanoeuvre us, thereby eliminating us from the match and a place in the Champions Trophy.
We now have to play Argentina (who lost 6-2 to Germany after squandering a Jorge Lombi 2-0 lead) for the 7th and 8th places. Sure, it's going to be another tough match. Can we pull ourselves together and at least better out Atlanta ranking?
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