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|October 19, 2001||
Early goals made the difference: RajinderOur Correspondent
Indian hockey coach Rajinder Singh was ecstatic after his boys beat tournament favourites Germany 3-2 to enter the final of the men's junior hockey World Cup in Hobart, Australia, on Friday.
"I told you, if our forwards take the early chances we will win," he said, as he and his team watched the second sem-final between Argentina and England.
India got off to a dream start in the semi-final, scoring from a penalty-stroke after Deepak Thakur was brought down by the German goalkeeper while advancing to score. Good coordination between the midfielders and forwards, then saw them add two more goals without reply to go into the breather 3-0 up.
Rajinder said it was the three early goals that made the difference.
"I had said if our forwards score you can't stop India from winning. We had opportunities in the first half and the boys did well to utilise them. In the second half, we knew Germany would go all out so I decided to pull one midfielder behind to strengthen the defence. It paid off."
Saying all the boys responded to his call "not to relax", the former India full-back lauded the gallant display of goalkeeper Devesh Chauhan and defender Jugraj Singh, who "did a great job, especially in the penalty-corners".
How did he rate the team's performance?
''This was easily our best match in the tournament. While our forwards were on top in the first half, our defence was great in the second half; they performed admirably," he said, hastening to add that he got a bit worried when the Germans forced a series of penalty-corners in the second half.
"Our defence made some mistakes in the second half and that is why we conceded so many penalty-corners," he said.
Germany's coach Uli Forstner, despite finishing on the losing side said he was pleased with the showing of his boys.
"I was very happy with our game today. It was the best game we played in this tournament. It would be much worse if we had played a bad game. Now we will try to finish third, which should still be a good result," he said.
Forstner said his players were nervous after the three goals they conceeded but commended India's penalty-corner defence "that saw the runner steal the ball twice".
He said Germany's plan was to play safe early on go for the kill but the early goal changed everything.
So what would be his prediction for the final?
"I rate India higher than Argentina," he said.
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