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Medal hopes up in the smoke, India prepares for classifications

Written by: Staff
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Monchengladbach, Sep 14 (UNI) After the nightmarish week saw their medal hopes go up in the smoke, India, after three days of break from the game, is now getting ready to play classification matches on Saturday and Sunday in the 11th men's hockey World Cup here.

Four defeats and a draw in pool B has put the Indians in a similar situation they were in the 1986, '90 '98 and 2002 World Cup.

''Extremely disappointing'' was how coach Vasudevan Bhaskaran described the performance that was way below expectations.

Clubbed with Argentina, Japan and South Africa in the classification matches for 9-12th positions, the Indians would be hoping to avoid going home with the wooden spoon.

''I have a lot of faith in this team,'' the coach said, while summing up India's overall performance but admitted that the deep defence was a cause for concern.

''Too many penalty corners in the five matches and we also need to work hard on how we defend them,'' he said.

He still is of the belief that a top-six finish would have been an accurate reflection of the team's potential.

''The few soft goals that we conceded, especially against Germany, hurt us a lot. The players couldn't pick themselves up from the early reverse,'' the coach said, reflecting on the decisive goals that India let in, especially in the last quarter of all the league games.

Germany scored their match-winner in the 69th minute, England scored thrice between 54th and 61st, South Africa equalised in the 64th and Koreans moved from 0-1 down to 2-1 with goals in the 62nd and 68th, before the Netherlands converted five penalty corners and a penalty stroke while routing India 6-1.

Bhaskaran, however, was candid enough to admit that his players were short on mental toughness.

''Physically, I feel the players can easily last 70 minutes but our inability to bounce back or maintain a good position has cost us a lot,'' he said.

''We now have two more matches and I am confident that our team will do better. We had a good game against the Dutch and it showed that if we stay positive, we can perform well,'' he explained.

Incidentally, this is the first World Cup where the Indians have not won a single match as yet. Even in 1986, when they finished last among 12 teams, India had beaten Canada 2-0 in the league for their only success in seven matches.

After completing their league fixtures on Tuesday, the Indians play their first classification match against Argentina on Saturday followed by the position game on Sunday, when the World Cup ends.

UNI HSB AY VV1740

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