Last chance for India today to earn a point in hockey

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London, Aug 7: The Indian hockey team is set to appear for their final group match at the Olympics on Tuesday. It has been a forgettable experience for the Indians who failed to earn a single win in either of the four matches they have played. They went down 2-3 to the Netherlands, 1-3 to New Zealand, 2-5 to Germany and 1-4 to South Korea.

They played some spirited hockey only in the first match when they rallied back into the match after trailing 0-2 during the interval but lost after conceding a late decisive goal. With no points from four outings, this is clearly India's worst performance at the Olympics and they will finish last in the group irrespective of their result against the Belgian Red Lions on Tuesday. It is only to be seen whether they can avoid finishing last among all 12 participating teams in this Olympic. For that, they need to beat either Argentina or South Africa, whoever finish last in the other group after playing their last group match on Tuesday.

It has been a disastrous Olympics for the hockey team, particularly after the hype that was created over the team's return to the mega showdown after eight years. The team even went overboard, announcing that they would reveal their six-packs if they did well!

But Michael Nobbs's boys, it seems, had little idea of the reality check that was waiting for them after a splendid show at the qualifiers against France (won 6-2 and 8-1 in the final), Poland (won 4-2), Canada (won 3-2), Italy (8-1) and Singapore (15-1). These teams are nowhere near the top order and the Indians did not get a true test of their character against them. The side might have struggled to qualify for the Games this time as well had there been a top-ranked team in the qualifying rounds, like in 2008 when they lost to Great Britain and failed to earn an Olympic berth.

The team showed in all its four games that over-dependence on a few players can never deliver in a team game and that too against top sides. Even South Africa, which chose to play qualifiers against strong teams to get a taste of the tough challenge at the Olympics, struggled in both men's and women's sections.

The Indian team looked leaderless with skipper Bharat Chetri opting to stay away from the turf for most part of the match against Germany while key players like Sandeep Singh, who said he would aim to score in each match, flopped. The defence was invisible as the opponents played at will in the Indian circle. Neither the forwards were impressive by any standards. The result was expected: India conceded 15 goals in four matches while it could score just six. This is the worst goal difference in this Olympics so far.

The Indians will have their task cut out against the Belgians, ranked a place below them, after the latter stunned a strong Korea 2-1 in the group stage. They also drew with New Zealand and are at the fourth position in the group. They lost to Germany 1-2 and Netherlands 1-3 and have conceded just seven goals so far. Jerome Dekeyser and Tom Boon will be key players for the Red Lions.

India-Belgium Olympic encounters

India won 9-0 at 1928 Amsterdam Olympics, group match
India won 2-0 at 1964 Tokyo Olympics, group match
India won 2-1 at 1968 Mexico Olympics, group match

Belgium did not take part in the Olympics from 1980 till 2004 and returned to the Games in 2008.

India have won all three matches against Belgium at the Olympics. However, it was Belgium who beat India 4-3 at the Champions Challenge played in Johannesburg last year.

Team profile: India, Belgium

See Points Tables: Women's, Men's

OneIndia News

Story first published: Tuesday, August 7, 2012, 11:39 [IST]
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