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India win at last, finish 11th
Anand Philar | September 17, 2006 17:47 IST
A 54th minute goal by Rajpal Singh saw India beat South Africa 1-0 and avoid the ignominy of finishing last in the 11th men's hockey World Cup Monchengladbach, Germany on Sunday.
It was India's first win in seven matches and came against a team they had drawn 1-1 in the league last week.
The 11th place finish meant that India, number six in the FIH World rankings, earned the right to play in the 2007 Champions Challenge tournament in Boom, Belgium (June 23-July 1), the qualifying tournament for the 2008 Champions Trophy.
India could have won by a far bigger margin but for the largesse of the forwards who missed sitters galore with Rajpal and Shivendra Singh each blowing up two clear scoring chances.
The Indians could also convert just one of the six penalty corners they received when Rajpal, positioned close to the post, deflected in captain Dilip Tirkey's pass.
Curiously, India opted not to play their lone penalty corner specialist in the squad, V Raghunath, who warmed the bench through the 70 minutes though being in the 16.
Instead, Viren Rasquinha was shifted from midfield to the full-back position to accompany Dilip Tirkey.
The match, played at 8 am local time in chilly and misty conditions, lacked pace and finesse with both teams struggling to find their rhythm.
The Indians did warm up in the second session when they came up with a couple of fluent moves, but failed to convert them into goals.
The South Africans spent much of the time defending as the Indians dominated the proceedings and had just one good crack at the goal in the 14th minute, but goalkeeper Bharat Chettri brought off a good save. That apart, the South Africans rarely penetrated into the Indian circle.
South Africa, playing in only their third World Cup, thus finished 12th.
The Indians could take some solace from the fact that they did manage at least one victory in this quadrennial showpiece event.
But the win today cannot take away the fact that Vasudevan Baskaran's men failed miserably in their effort to resurrect their reputation which now lies in tatters.
The Indians must take lessons from their disastrous campaign here and do some intense introspection as to where they went wrong and find solutions to their problems before it is too late.