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|October 20, 2001||
Chance to redeem lost gloryOur Correspondent
Indian hockey has a chance to redeem lost glory when it takes on Argentina in the final of the men's junior hockey World Cup, at the Tasmanian Hockey Centre in Hobart, Australia, on Sunday.
Its last big triumph on the world stage was 21 years ago when it won the hockey gold at the Moscow Olympics. Since then, its fortunes have touched the depths, with only the silver medal from the last edition of the junior World Cup, in 1997 at Milton Keynes, added to its eight Olympic and one World Cup gold medals.
Skipper Gagan Ajit Singh and his team could change all that. Victories over the Netherlands in the concluding match of the second round and Germany in the semi-final makes them believe they can beat Argentina and return from Down Under with the world crown.
But much will depend on how well India defends penalty corners, and the finishing of forwards Prabhjot Singh, Gagan Ajit and Deepak Thakur. Early goals, like they got against Germany in the semi-final, will certainly upset the Argentine strategy of defending and making the breakaway thrust.
After the 2-2 draw against the South Americans in the opening match of the second round, coach Rajinder Singh knows well enough that Argentina cannot be taken lightly.
"Argentina will be very tough. I have seen them play in three-four matches here and I know they won't be easy," he said, on the eve of the final.
So what would be his game plan?
"Argentina have a tendency of slowing the game down suddenly in the midfield and then getting in a field goal by crossing the ball and splitting the defence. We must not make the mistakes we made in our second round match.
"As I have always said, our forwards must take the chances. Our forwardline and halfline must click. If we play as we have done right through the tournament and get the goals, we will be world champions."
Rajinder added, "I hope I will achieve as coach what I couldn't as a player." He was one of the full backs, along with Dung Dung and Devinder Singh, in India's gold-medal-winning team at the Moscow Olympics, and a member of the team in the 1982 World Cup in Bombay, where he emerged top scorer and India finished fifth.
Mail Sports Editor
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