India desperate to arrest slide

India desperate to arrest slide

Hockey: Victory against South Africa a must to boost morale

India desperate to arrest slide

Lack of bite up front and errors in defence cost India at least one point as they went down to England 2-3, while Pakistan were pathetic in losing to South Africa 3-4 earlier in the day.

The time for introspection will come at the end of the tournament but given the history of the sport in the two countries, more often than not, the scenario is perfect for blame games to begin, with an eager media adding fuel to the fire.

The race for the semifinal might be over for the two teams but they still have matches remaining, offering them chance to improve their standings. Pakistan were seventh at the last World Cup in 2006 while India occupied the 11th spot.

Clearly, the final round of pool matches are important, for a good finish will help shape a turnaround, at least in India’s case, having shown signs of improvement and flashes of brilliance in earlier matches.

With the fifth-sixth placings match almost certainly out of their reach now, India can sign off on a high if they make it to the 7-8 bracket with a win over South Africa. It won’t be a great achievement but for a team that finished close to the basement last time, it will certainly be a step forward.

“Finishing seventh or eighth will be a good result. You should remember that our ranking is 12th at the moment,” said coach Jose Brasa.

He, however, warned that South Africa won’t be an easy opposition. India had beaten South Africa to secure the 11th spot at the last World Cup, and here, the Proteas suffered the worst-ever World Cup defeat, losing 0-12 to Australia.

But the spirit they showed against Pakistan, coming back from a goal down to post an excellent win, spells danger for India.

“Don’t think that South Africa will be an easy opponent,” warned Brasa. “They might have lost big to Australia but they are a good team and can be dangerous as we saw in the game against Pakistan.”

While the forwards have been wayward, India’s main worry will be the defence, manned by Sandeep Singh and Dhananjay Mahadik. The mistakes the defence committed against Spain and England really nailed their chances. Just when they were shaping a reply against England, they gave away two quick goals, making a comeback next to impossible. A change in personnel is a normal thing in Indian hockey but Brasa said that is not the way to follow.

"We should stick to this squad. The players are improving by the day and that is very encouraging. Making a lot of changes is not the way forward,” he said. “I never said we were going to win the Cup. We are on the learning curve and our aim is the Asian Games at the end of the year.”

That is some way away and the immediate focus should be on the South Africa game with plenty at stake. The game certainly is not over for Brasa’s men.

Today’s action

Monday’s matches, all Pool B:
* Spain vs England (4.35 pm).
* Australia vs Pakistan (6.35 pm).
* India vs South Africa (8.35 pm).
Matches live on TEN Sports

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