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India hope to end winless run
September 15, 2006 18:54 IST
India are hoping to restore some pride and script their first victory in the 11th men's hockey World Cup when they meet Argentina in a classification match for 9 to 12 positions in Monchengladbach, Germany, on Saturday.
Following below-par performances at the World Cup, India and Argentina are poised to slip from their current ranking of No 6 and 7 respectively.
After a three-day break, the Indians knocked the ball around on Friday morning while working out a few set-piece moves that they hope will fetch them the elusive victory in the tournament that concludes on Sunday.
In the past, Argentina have always proved a thorn in India's side; in the current World Cup, the South American champions upset Pakistan with a 1-0 victory that eliminated the four-time World champions from semi-final contention.
Coach Vasudevan Bhaskaran conceded that it would be a tough match with Argentina, who are known for temperamental displays that swing from the sublime to ridiculous, much like the Indians.
Argentina promised a lot initially, but faded away, suffering three defeats, including a 4-3 loss to Japan that saw them plummet.
The Indians have to tread cautiously, having received five yellow card suspensions -- two to Kanwalpreet Singh and one each to Prabodh Tirkey, Viren Rasquinha and Hari Prasad.
Bhaskaran felt the players could have avoided the yellow cards by keeping in mind the rules governing misconduct, but was hopeful that they would put the misdemeanors behind and focus on finishing ninth, a placing achieved at the 1998 World Cup, when Bhaskaran was the coach.
Of the two other teams in the 9 to 12 bracket, Japan will be happy with their showing as they will finish higher than their world ranking of 14, while South Africa will be fighting to safeguard their current 10th rank.