Olympic hockey: A test of character for India
London: India find themselves in an all-too-familiar situation wherein they not only need to win all their matches, but also pray for favourable results in other games as they take on defending champions Germany in a Group B fixture of the Olympic men`s hockey competition here Friday.
With two defeats, India are precariously placed in the context of qualifying for the medal rounds and another loss or a draw in the remaining three league matches will certainly take them out of contention.
In contrast, unbeaten Germany, who have not lost to India in the Olympics since 1968 Games in Mexico, are on six points, though both their victories were far from convincing as they struggled to get past Belgium (2-1) and Korea (1-0).
The Germans are known to step up their pace and level of play as the tournament progresses and this is what the Indians need to be wary of, for they will be punished for any slip-ups.
India`s performance, thus far, has been anything but inspirational.
Though they lost narrowly to the Netherlands (1-2), who are in the midst of a rebuilding process, in their opening game, India had no answer to the organised New Zealand who won 3-1.
All the hype and hoopla in the wake of India`s qualification to the Olympics after an eight-year break in New Delhi, where they had no worthwhile opposition, projected a highly exaggerated picture of the team while triggering unrealistic expectations.
The two defeats so far have only served to put India`s medal prospects in perspective.
On the morrow, India`s chances hinge on the ability of the players to bounce back from two defeats.
Theoretically, India can still make it to the medal rounds, but in reality, they face uphill task.
The first step would be to beat Germany, something they have not since Mexico Olympics where India fell out of the top two slots for the first time. Indians scalped the Germans twice, 2-1 in the league and by the same score-line in the bronze medal play-off.
Thus, history is very much against India who will have to raise their game like never before if they hope to put it across an experienced Germany.
India`s problems in the two games so far have been plentiful, not the least the inability of the forwards to convert scoring opportunities into goals.
Their over-dependence on penalty corner experts Sandeep Singh and Ramachandra Raghunath has also been their undoing in terms of exploring other goal-scoring avenues.
Further, India`s organisation in deep defence and midfield has left a lot to be desired considering that they have let in six goals and is in sharp contrast to Germany, who symbolise efficiency if not flair.
Boasting of quality and experience in their line-up, Germany still seem to have a lot in reserve and if the Indians provide space like they did to the Kiwis Wednesday, it will be another open invitation to disaster.
While for Germany it is a matter of keeping the hands steady on the wheels, for India, it is a question of showing character to get out of quicksand that they find themselves in.