'Defence needs work'

'Defence needs work'

Final preparatory camp all set to begin in Bangalore

Michael Nobbs (left) with A B Subbaiah.

Coach Michael Nobbs will touch base on Sunday afternoon while the 48 probables and the support staff will arrive in batches on Sunday and Monday with the camp expected to hit top gear from Tuesday.

Former captain Rajpal Singh and Tushar Khandkar have sought permission to be away until December 26, with marriage being the reason. Sardar Singh and Sandeep Singh will report by December 17, owing to some personal commitments.

“This is going to be a very important camp,” said Nobbs. “This camp offers us the last chance to rectify all our mistakes and get our gameplans ready ahead of a very important tournament. In the six months that I’ve been with the boys, they are determined to grab that qualification spot, considering what happened four years ago in Chile.”

In the three tournaments that Nobbs has been in charge, the Australian has got mixed results. While he powered India to a gold medal in his maiden venture at the Asian Champions Trophy, his wards failed miserably in the demanding Australian tour before salvaging some pride by finishing runners-up in the just-concluded Champions Challenge tournament in Johannesburg.

“Asian Champions trophy helped us determine where we stand and the Australians showed us why they are the best in the world. I feel we did really well in Johannesburg; we scored a total of 29 goals. I don’t think we lost the tournament, we just gifted it away to Belgium.

“While I am really happy with the forwards, the defence needs a lot of improvement. We just can’t keep faltering during the final stages. That will be our main focus during this camp,” added Nobbs.

The Indian Hockey Federation is expected to postpone the cash-rich World Series Hockey but Nobbs said he isn’t aware of it. “I always maintained that WSH at this time will hamper Olympic qualification plans. Even if it gets postponed, the camp will remain in Bangalore.

“We are in the process of inviting a few teams to play friendly ‘tests’ against us in January at the Major Dhyan Chand National stadium. The dates are yet to be confirmed. Once done, we would move to New Delhi for the final burst.”

The Olympic qualifiers are scheduled to be held at the Major Dhyan Chand National stadium in New Delhi from February 12-26, 2012.

Italy replace Egypt

Meanwhile, Italy has replaced Egypt in the qualifying tournament. According to the initial draw released by International Hockey Federation, the 2012 Olympics qualifying tournament were to feature India, Canada, France, Poland, Egypt and the United States.

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