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|October 18, 2001||
India confident of beating GermanyOur Correspondent
India take on Germany in the semi-final of the seventh junior men's hockey World Cup at the Tasmanian Hockey Centre, in Hobart, Australia, on Friday. And, despite the fact that the Germans have been the most impressive of the 16 teams in the tournament and are still unbeaten, the Indians are confident of pulling it off and making their second successive World Cup final.
The optimism stems from their superb showing in their last encounter of the second stage against the Netherlands, who they beat in an epic match to squeeze into the last four.
For Germany, it will be a grudge match. After all, it was the Indians who had denied them a final berth in the last edition at Milton Keynes in 1997, beating them by a golden goal in the semi-final. Centre-forward Rajiv Mishra's goal propelled India to a 4-3 win over the then defending champions.
Indian team coach Rajinder Singh agreed that it is going to be touch and go in the semi-final match.
''This is hockey at its toughest,'' he said, pointing out that the team which makes the best of its chances early in the match will come out trumps.
He cited the match against the Netherlands to emphasize the importance of capitalising on even half chances.
''Against the Netherlands our game plan was to attack. When we did that we played wonderfully. If we can repeat out performance tomorrow, and our forwards take the chances, I am sure we will be able to beat Germany too," he said.
To repeat that performance, skipper Gagan Ajit Singh will have to get his scoring act together. He has not been among the goals in most of the matches, so India will be counting on the law of averages catching up with him. Besides, Jugraj Singh and Kanwalpreet Singh will have to hold their nerves to come good in the penalty-corner exercises, which are bound to prove crucial to the outcome of the tie.
But despite sounding confident, Rajinder cautioned against even the slightest complacency.
"It will not be easy," he said. "The Germans are very tough and they are tenacious. They are one of the best teams. Even if they are down by a couple of goals, you can be sure they will come back. That's why no one can relax tomorrow. I think our defence will have to play really well."
Thursday was a rest day for the teams. The Indians had a light work-out, preferring to conserve their energies for Friday's big fight.
''The boys have been given the much-needed rest day today as they have to regroup both physically and mentally," Rajinder informed.
Germany won all its three matches of the second stage rather convincingly. They beat Spain 2-1, Korea 7-3 and England 3-2, to collect the maximum points and emerge the only unbeaten team in the tournament.
India, after a brilliant showing in the first stage, which saw them end up unbeaten, scoring 15 goals, the most, and conceding just one, went through several anxious moments in the second stage before making it to the last four. They drew with Argentina 2-2 in the opening match, then lost to Australia 1-2 and surprised the Netherlands 4-3 in their concluding match of the four-team pool to make the grade.
German coach Uli Furstner refused to comment on the outcome of the match. All he said was: ''India will have to come up with their very best to beat us."
Asked how pleased he was about his team's showing thus far in the tournament, Furstner said: "You know, a good horse only springs as high as it needs to,'' perhaps implying that his boys only performed as per its requirements thus far, and are capable of an even better showing when needed.
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