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Stunned India desperate to regain form

July 04, 2005 16:25 IST

There is nothing glorious about the uncertainties of Indian hockey. The stunning 0-4 defeat to Spain on Sunday night in the Rabobank Junior World Cup tournament for men in Rotterdam, following a 4-1 rout of the Netherlands the previous day, has brought to light the thin ice on which the Indian team is skating on.

Coach Harendra Singh struggled explain the inconsistency of his team that welcomed Monday's rest day.

"This has always been the bane of Indian hockey. We cannot perform on one level with consistency and this is something I am really worried about," he said.

The mood in the Indian camp has shifted from euphoric to sombre as the players mulled over the dramatic dip in their collective form as was evident from their performance against Spain, who, until then, had struggled through their preliminary league campaign.

"Obviously, there is now pressure on us to win the remaining two matches against Korea (on Tuesday) and England (Wednesday) to make it to the semi-finals. I know there is potential in our team, but we need to perform," said Harendra.

Spain mercilessly punished India for their sloppiness in the midfield and deep defence, a fact Harendra readily acknowledged.

"We played an excellent game against the Dutch and now we have to rediscover that form if we hope to progress further in this tournament," he said.

The dependence on Sandeep Singh to convert penalty-corners probably worked against India.

"We could not convert even one of the three penalty-corners against Spain," rued Harendra.

In fact, Sandeep attempted only direct drag-flicks unlike against Holland, when the Indians executed a brilliant indirect conversion when Sandeep ran around to receive the pass after a couple of dummy swipes that caught the Dutch charge on the wrong foot.

Although Harendra said India would not like to depend on results of other matches in the Pool to decide his team's fate, it might boil down to just that.

Of the teams presently placed ahead of India in the pool, Korea have to play India and Holland, Spain have to face Egypt and the Dutch. So even if India win their remaining two games, their progress to the knock-out stage might hinge on how Korea, Spain and Holland perform.

"My strategy is simple -- win all matches rather than worry about how other teams are faring," Harendra had said prior to the match against the Dutch. But, then, the defeat to Spain might force him now to monitor his competitors more closely, and probably with a prayer on his lips.

Tuesday's fixtures (all timings IST): Pakistan vs Argentina (3.30 pm); Australia vs Germany (6 pm); Malaysia vs Belgium (7.30 pm); Egypt vs England (8.30 pm); India vs Korea (10 pm); Holland vs Spain (11 pm).

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