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Carvalho relieved after beating England
June 25, 2007 16:31 IST
Back in the reckoning after the hard-fought victory over England [Images], the Indian hockey team will be looking to plug the loopholes before they take on hosts Belgium in the six-nation Champions Challenge men's tournament in Boom on Tuesday.
As things stand now, India, Argentina, Japan [Images] and Belgium are tied with three points apiece behind New Zealand, the only unbeaten side in the fray after two rounds in the league.
England, considered the pre-tournament favourites, lost both their matches and languish at the bottom of the table.
India's win over England after their reversal against New Zealand was a huge relief as it kept them in the hunt for a berth in the final.
"I am glad that two of the toughest games, against New Zealand and England, are out of the way. We have not been able to play to our potential mainly due to the extremely wet weather with rain soaking the pitch.
"We conceded two goals in the last 10 minutes to the Kiwis but bounced back well to beat England, and it was a relief," said Carvalho.
In fact, the incessant rain had a bearing on the performance of all the teams.
"The sodden pitch affected ball rotation and pace of our moves. But I guess, it has been the same for other teams too," said England coach Jason Lee.
For India, though, the weather was only one of its problems. The inability of their forwards to combine effectively, slackness in midfield and some crucial errors in deep defence made it touch-and-go in both games so far.
"We gave far too much space to New Zealand in the first match, and against England, though we played far better with there being less rain, we still need to improve a lot. We have three more matches in hand and none of these will be easy," said Carvalho.
India take on hosts Belgium on Tuesday. The locals have shown improvement with each outing.
The Belgians, the lowest-most ranked team in the tournament at number 13, were distinctly unlucky to lose to Japan in the opener, but seized their opportunities to stun Argentina 3-2.
"Results so far have shown that just about anything is possible. Belgium will enjoy the home advantage, including crowd support. They play a typical European style and I expect a tough game," Carvalho said.
"In a way, it is good for the overall development of our team that we have had two tough back-to-back matches in difficult conditions. The players would have gained a lot with this experience and I am sure, they will improve as we go along.
"You have to keep in mind that a majority of our players are young and relatively inexperienced, but I am confident that at least some of them will mature into top class players over a period of time," the coach said optimistically.
One of the most noticeable developments has been that of penalty-corner specialist Sandeep Singh.
The youngster, making a comeback to international hockey after recovering from a freak bullet injury, was played in the midfield against England.
"His basics are strong and given his height and reach, I thought he might make a good midfielder. He is also not afraid to go on the attack like he did against England and so you might see him more in this role than as a full-back," the Indian coach said.
In playing Sandeep along with Dilip Tirkey and William Xalco, India have fielded three specialist full-backs in the playing eleven at the cost of a forward. The coach believes that it gives him more options with substitutions depending on the state of the game.
"I can always pull out one of the three and let loose a forward if we need goals or the additional defender will strengthen us at the back. We are not rigid in our game plan and flexibility is what I am aiming at because you need to change according to the flow of the game," Carvalho said.
With England virtually out for the count after two defeats, India's chances of making it to the final appear bright at this stage. The key game for them could well be against Argentina on Thursday.
But for the moment, Carvalho is focussing on the match with Belgium.
"We would be playing to win all our remaining matches and then take it from there," he added.
Tuesday's matches (IST):
Japan vs Argentina (1800); England vs New Zealand (2015); India vs Belgium (2230).