Indians face stiff challenge

Indians face stiff challenge

Hockey World League Finals : Hosts take on high-flying Great Britain in quarterfinals today

Indians face stiff challenge

 India’s run at the Hockey World League Final has been far from convincing so far. After a disastrous 3-0 loss to Argentina in their opening game, the Indians came back strong to hold Olympic champions Germany to a 1-1 draw.

That, however, has been the only bright spot in India’s campaign as they once again retracted to their sloppy ways against the Netherlands who comfortably beat the hosts with a 3-1 verdict.

But now with the competition moving to its business end, the Sardar Singh-led side will hope that there are no hiccups in their game when they take on Great Britain in the quarterfinal here at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel stadium on Thursday.

It’s not just their inconsistent form that stands against the Indians here. Their head-to-head record with the British too hasn’t been good. The last time the two teams faced each other, the Indians were comfortably beaten 5-1 at the Hockey World League Semifinal in Antwerp, Belgium. As such, the Indians will know that they will have to be at the top of their game on Thursday. “The plan is simple. Go and give your best. Be you 100 percent every moment of the game,” said skipper Sardar on the eve of the tie.

“We have struggled to get our footing right in the tournament so far. Missing too many chances up front and failing to clear our line in the back. But that’s the past now. The real competition begins now. And we want to make sure we give our best every single minute of the tie,” he added.

With just two goals from three matches, the forward line is India’s biggest concern. Though the side has managed to create numerous chances, the failure to convert those into goals has pegged the side back. And against Great Britain, India will have to make sure they make the most of the opportunities.

While the Indians have struggled to impress, Britain have been in top form, scoring 11 goals in their three games. The Dan Fox-led side recorded convincing wins over Canada and world champions Australia, while they were held to a 3-3 draw by Belgium.

Though their form and recent history gives Great Britain an edge over India, the British coach Bobby Crutchley said it would be wrong to write off their opponents so early. “I haven't seen India enough as I was focused on my group. But then all teams are expected to raise their standards in the quarterfinals and I am sure India will be tough as well. They are playing at home and will want to reach the medal rounds so it won't be an easy game for us,” he said.

Facing an experimental British side, who have left out players like Ashley Jackson and Barry Middleton, it would be interesting to see if the Indians can garner a win and make inroads into the tournament.

Matches today: India vs Great Britain (6.30 pm); Belgium vs Argentina (8.30 pm).

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