It's do-or-die for Indians

Hosts need to defeat South Korea

 The Hero Hockey Junior World Cup is three days old and India have already suffered hiccups in their pursuit to the knockout stage.

The hosts’ performance in the two matches played at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium here has been far from convincing and left them with a lot to ponder about.

The home side, rated among the top contenders before the competition, started off its campaign on a false note against the Netherlands. Though they did well to reduce the margin to 2-3, the Dutch dominated the match. Against a lowly Canada, the Indians made a heavy weather of the match by missing quite a few scoring chances. They were lucky to get off the hook with a 3-2 scoreline. 

The Indians conceded early soft goals in both the matches and looked good only in patches. The lack of coordination in their forward line was evident and the defenders too need to raise the bar.

India now stare at a do-or-die Pool C match on Tuesday against Korea, who opened with a 7-4 victory against Canada, before giving a fright to the Netherlands during their 2-3 loss.

Former players feel the pressure of playing at home affected India’s performance. “It is not that the players are not skilful. A draw against the Netherlands would have been good. I think the effect of that loss could be seen in the match against Canada too. The boys were rushing for the goals. But still the win must have boosted their confidence. I feel that the two days of rest will do them good,” said V Baskaran, former player and one of the coaches of the senior team.

Olympian Zafar Iqbal concurred. “Against Korea, we have to ensure that we control the ball possession and go for short passes.  One wrong pass can put us in trouble as the Koreans are an extremely fit side with a lot of stamina.”

Pak player suspended

Muhammad Arslan Qadir of Pakistan was handed a two-match suspension following a red card offence in the Pool A match against Germany on Saturday. The incident happened in the 23rd minute.

After a hearing on Sunday, Tournament Director David Collier decided on the penalty.

Aussies advance

Australia and France qualified to the quarterfinals from Pool B on Sunday. The Australians were thwarted by a robust Spanish defence before making inroads in the second half for a 2-0 victory. France fought off a spirited fight by Argentina to win 3-2.

Results: Australia: 2 (Daniel Beale 38th, Dylan Wotherspoon 63rd) bt Spain: 0; France: 3 (Pieter van Straaten 25th, Theophile Ponthieu 31st, Jean- Laurent Kieffer 48th) bt Argentina: 2 (Estanislao Emilio Perez Pesado 20th, Gonzalo Peillat 35th); Malaysia: 2 (Own goal 27th, Firhan Ashari 43rd) bt South Africa: 1 (Matthew Brown 13th); England: 2 (James Gall 14th, Luke Taylor 27th) drew New Zealand: 2 (Kane Russell 39th, Matt Rees-Gibbs 68th).

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