India beat South Africa 4-1 in final practice game ahead of WC

The Hague (Netherlands): A spirited India defeated South Africa 4-1 in their final practice game to round off their warm-up campaign ahead of the hockey World Cup on a positive note here.

India had earlier lost 1-2 to Argentina in the first practice game. Hit hard by injuries to two key strikers -- Ramandeep Singh and Nikkin Thimmaiah, the Indians played the game against South Africa with a maturity head and sense of purpose.

India`s three goals came from penalty corner conversion by Rupinderpal Singh (2) and V R Raghunath, while captain Sardar Singh also contributed to the scoreline with a field goal. India dominated proceedings for most part of the match and took the lead at the closing stages of the first half through a penalty corner conversion by Rupinder.

Rupinder registered his name in the scoresheet again when he successfully converted another penalty corner in the second half to double India`s lead.

The South Africans did manage to pull one back from a set piece but the Indian defence stood tall thereafter to thwart any danger to their citadel. Skipper Sardar made the scoreline 3-1 in favour of India with a field strike before Raghunath completed the formalities with a penalty corner conversion.

Speaking on India`s performance against South Africa, India`s High Performance Director Roelant Oltmans, said: "The first half of the match turned out to be a little slower than expected, but the second half of the game saw a really good performance by the team, where defence also gave an excellent response.

"We are happy to see both Lalit Upadhyay and Yuvraj Walmiki (Ramandeep and Nikkin`s replacements) living up to the expectations from their very first match. The team has been preparing for a long time now and it`s time for the boys to deliver their best. I am confident that the boys will perform well in this tournament."

India captain Sardar Singh too was satisfied with the outcome of the match. "It was the second practice game and I am glad the team is showing good results. The good part is that we all understand the wavelength and carry on with the game with the same mindset," he said.

"This win against South Africa will further help in boosting the confidence of every player and especially Lalit Upadhyay and Yuvraj Walmiki as it was their first game. We are ready to take up more challenges and deliver even better results in the tournament," Sardar added.

India will open their World Cup campaign against Belgium in a tough Group A on Saturday.

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