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|July 31, 2001||
Lessons to be learnt from qualifier, says Cedric D'Souza
India hockey coach Cedric D'Souza Tuesday said there were lessons to be learnt from the just-concluded men's World Cup hockey qualifier in Edinburgh, where the team finished fifth among 16 teams and qualified for the 2002 finals in Kuala Lumpur.
"It is good that it happened at the qualifier rather than at the World Cup finals," D'Souza told rediff.com on his return from the tournament. "We have time to rectify our shortcomings before the main event."
The 46-year-old coach, who guided the fortunes of the Indian team at the 1994 Sydney World Cup as also the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, said the "pressure" of living up to the pre-tournament billing of favourites "told on the team" though he hastened to add that his boys "achieved the prime objective of qualifying".
"There are things you learn when the team is not playing with experience. There is no doubt that the boys played well, but there was too much pressure on them. And when they failed to score early in the initial matches despite dominating, it mounted," he said.
So what went wrong at Edinburgh? What are the areas that need attention?
D'Souza refused to lay the blame on any particular player. He summed up the team's shortcomings, saying: "We made defensive errors at crucial moments, gave away too many soft fouls and could not convert many opportunities we created."
On the inability to score from penalty-corners, D'Souza admitted that it was an area of concern. "There is much scope for improvement in that department." he added.
Queried about the inclusion of just five players from the World Cup qualifier team to the one that will represent the country at the Sultan Azlan Shah tournament at Kuala Lumpur from August 2 to 12, D'Souza dismissed suggestions that those who are not selected have been axed.
"I was consulted on the selection of the team for the Azlan Shah tournament. Some of these boys have had a hectic schedule -- they were at camps and either played on the tours of Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand. They had to be rested. They will all be back when the team starts preparing for the World Cup," he said.
D'Souza rubbished reports that goalkeeper Jude Menezes was not accompanying the Azlan Shah team because of a not-too-good showing at the qualifier. "That's all crap. In fact, Jude was named among the top six goalkeepers of the tournament while Arjun Halappa, who is also not in the team, was among the six most promising junior players."
Asked whether ace striker Dhanraj Pillay will be considered for selection for the World Cup finals, D'Souza averred: "Sure. Who won't want Dhanraj in the side. It is not for me to decide, but a player can't make the team on past performances; if he attends the camp and is match-fit, there is no reason for him to be kept out of the team."
D'Souza said that he will leave shortly for Kuala Lumpur, where he will observe the team -- particularly new faces and those staging comebacks -- and also assess other teams at the Azlan Shah tournament.
Mail Sports Editor
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