India need to get their act right

India need to get their act right

India must fire on all cylinders against Spain in their third match on Thursday. PTI

The gains from the win in the first match are still on paper in the form of three important points. But not much is left of the confidence gained from that match after the way the Australians ripped their defence apart with their relentless pace on Tuesday night.

India lost the plot early when the Kookaburras pounced on their mistakes and slotted in two goals within the first seven minutes. It was tough to come back from those setbacks, especially with the Aussie defence and midfield not giving anything away. As coach Jose Brasa said after the game, the Aussie level of play was a cut above.

To India’s advantage, though, Spain are in the same boat. Like India, they too have won one match and lost the other to be on three points. Australia have a similar record while England have made a head start in Pool B, having won both their matches so far. In a tough pool, a clearer picture is likely to emerge after Thursday’s games.

Spain, ranked number three in the world, would have learnt some lessons from the India-Australia game but it remains to be seen whether they can launch attacks with the same speed as the Australians. Against Pakistan, they could not penetrate effectively into the striking circle, resulting in a 1-2 defeat.

Pol Amat, world player of the year in 2008, spearheads the Spanish challenge but without Santi Freixa – who pulled out due to an injury -- the attacks do not have the same sharpness. They also suffered a blow with Eduard Tubau, another key player, suffering an ankle injury, making him doubtful for the rest of the games.

“Without these two players, you can see Spain struggling,” said Brasa, who has trained some of the Spanish players. “They are not in the same level as the Aussies; they are more or less on our level. We will certainly be in a better position on Thursday,” added the Spaniard, assuring that his team would recover from the Aussie blow.

The positives from that blow were the performance of the midfield and the fact that India kept fighting till the end, even though they had only four players on the bench because of Shivender Singh’s suspension. Arjun Halappa and Sardar Singh stood out in the midfield but the frontline could not breach the Aussie defence often enough to make an impact on the game.

Doughty defence

Spain might not be as strong as the Aussies but they can be quite doughty in defence. The challenge in front of India is to find a way past them, with penalty corners being a possible route.

The teams have met four times in World Cup, each winning two matches apiece. Their last meeting in the World Cup was at Kuala Lumpur in 2002, with India winning 3-0. India, however, didn’t have a good time during their European tour last year, losing two of their three matches in Spain. That was soon after Brasa took over the reins. The times are different now and a positive India are well capable of making a turnaround.

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