Can India avoid a last-place finish at the Olympics?

Hockey Sticks
London, Aug 6: The Indian hockey team, which suffered four successive losses at the Olympics in London and is set to play the last team in the other pool for the 11th-12th position, will achieve a new low in the Olympics for sure. India's lowest ranking at the Olympics so far has been eighth, which they finished at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. However, it is to be seen whether they repeat their 1986 World Cup performance of finishing last among the 12 teams at a mega event. The 1986 WC was, coincidentally, also played in London.

India are the only team who are yet to register a point at the Olympics. They will play Belgium, ranked a place lower, in the final league match and irrespective of the result of the match, will end at the bottom of the table. Michael Nobbs, the Australian coach of the team who was frustrated with the team's dismal show, said it was the reality the Indians had to face.

He said the Indian players, who worked hard and earned fitness to take on top teams, let themselves and the country down just when it had mattered the most. Nobbs said playing for the country is a hard-earned opportunity and could not be taken for granted. He also apologised to the supporters of the team, who turned up in numbers to see India do good but were left dejected in every match. India's style of hockey was also disappointing.

The 88-year-old Balbir Singh Senior, who was a part of India's gold-winning teams in 1948, 1952 and 1956, also came to see India's match at the Riverbank Arena on Sunday but was disappointed by the team's shocking defeat to Korea.

Indian captain Bharat Chetri said he was hopeful of the team improving its show in the last two games. The team paid a heavy price for missing chances but should leave the failure behind and salvage some pride in the remaining matches, he added.

1920 bronze winner Belgium, which stunned a strong Korean team and drew with New Zealand, will not be an easy opposition. They had beaten India 4-3 in the final of the Champiosn Chellenge in Johannesburg last year. Belgium returned to the Olympics at the 2008 Beijing Games, the year India failed to qualify, after a long gap of 32 years.

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