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India hope to salvage pride against Germany
December 06, 2004 17:25 IST
The beleaguered Indian team will be hoping to log their first points when they taken on an under strength Germany in the third round of the Champions Trophy men's hockey tournament at the National Stadium in Lahore on Tuesday.
After the battering they received at the hands of Spain and defending champions Holland, India would like to believe that their toughest matches are behind them. But they will have to put in a far more inspired performance in the coming league encounters to revive their sagging fortunes.
Germany, who have sent an experimental side in order to focus on the 2006 World Cup and the 2008 Beijing Games, appear to be everyone's punching bag in the competition.
They were pounded by both Pakistan and Spain in their earlier two games and seem headed for another last place finish like last year.
India, who are yet to open the account and are ahead of Germany and New Zealand only because of a better goal difference, have everything to play for.
Holland, hosts Pakistan and in-form Spain, who also resume battle after Monday's rest day, have six points each.
A victory on Tuesday will not only act as a confidence booster but also provide some relief to under-fire coach Gerhard Rach.
"The most important thing for us is that we should not finish last. We have a young and inexperienced side which will improve with every outing, Our aim is the 2008 Olympics," Rach said after Sunday's defeat to the Netherlands.
If the first two outings are any indication, India did not play to their potential as yet. They made a number of "silly mistakes" in the encounters and paid the price.
The performance of the forward line was pathetic in the first game against Spain -- the strikers missed even sitters -- but against Holland it clicked somewhat, scoring four goals at crucial moments, to offer some challenge to the formidable European team.
The defence, however, continues to be the worrying factor, with captain Dilip Tirkey, on whom the team relies heavily, appearing off-colour.
The terrible form of other defenders coupled with a series of errors by the two goalkeepers Adrian D'Souza and Devesh Chauhan, who were superb in the two-match Test series against Spain just a week ago, has compounded problems.
Mid-fielder Vikram Pillay showed flashes of brilliance against the Dutch while the others in the half line – Viren Rasquinha and Ignace Tirkey -- are struggling to find their rhythm.
India face Pakistan on Wednesday and New Zealand on Friday before Sunday's classification matches.
Holland, seeking to win their third title in a row, appear set to go all the way even though they are yet to face Pakistan and Spain.
An exciting match is on the cards when they take on Pakistan on Tuesday as their ruthless approach as well as the never-say-die attitude will face a stern test against the fair of the home side.
Pakistan, under captain Waseem Ahmed, could give a tough challenge to the Dutch supremacy as several of their players including ace drag flicker Sohail Abbas appear in good nick.
Abbas added to his world record tally of goals by scoring once against Germany and twice against New Zealand and the home side must be hoping for more from him in the crucial game.
Olympic semi-finalists Spain are expected to steamroll the Kiwis even though the team from Down Under has shown tremendous resilience despite their two defeats.
"Having won two matches by a big margin is quite good and I am optimistic that my team will continue the same in the coming matches," Spanish captain Juan Escarre said, making his side's intentions clear.