Coaches trying to lift sagging morale of beleagured Indians

The Hague (The Netherlands): India`s hockey team today went about working on the mistakes that led their narrow losses in the first two group league matches of the men`s hockey World Cup.

India conceded match-winners to Belgium and England in the dying stages of the preliminary league matches, leaving captain Sardar Singh disappointed not to have secured any point from two competitive games.

"We`re put up a very competitive challenge against both Belgium and England, but we fumbled and gave away late goals to suffere defeats," Sardar said after the team`s intensive training session today.

"Both Belgium and England are ranked much higher than us in world rankings, and yet we gave them a good competition," said Sardar, dejected like the rest of the team to have conceded goals in the final stages.

Belgium, who won 3-2, got the match-winner against India with just 15 seconds on the board on the opening day, while England`s 2-1 victory was sealed with a penalty corner conversion just 85 seconds before the hooter.

In the game against Belgium, India were at the receiving end for long periods and tried to pack their defence to defend the goal. In the encounter with England, the Indians had a clear advantage in the run of play.

However, they repeatedly gave away the ball after working hard to bring it to the rival circle. There was a time in the last stages of the match that India went out looking for the lead, only to concede the critical penalty corner at the other end and England got the match-winner on a penalty corner rebound shot from Simon Mantell.

Sardar said the defeats had certainly dejected the players, but there was a lot left in the tournament to play for. He said the Indian team will come out stronger after working on the mistakes they had committed in the earlier games.

India are clubbed with another Asian team Malaysia at the bottom of Group A standings with zero points from two outings, while defending champions Australia and Belgium have earned a maximum six points and England have four points for two matches.

Coach Terry Walsh was all praise for the way India played against England and said it was extremely disappointing to have lost such matches, but the boys need to lift themselves.

"We`re working on our mistakes. We`ve discussed them in the team meetings and have worked on them at the training sessions," said Walsh.

"The boys delivered a great game of hockey yesterday, although the end result was disappointing," said Walsh.

"We`re analyzing the mistakes made by us in the two matches here and will seek to plan our strategy accordingly," the Indian coach said.

India have two days to get over their dejection and work on strategy before their next match on Thursday against Spain, who have one point from two matches. Spain held England to a 1-1 draw, but were beaten 3-0 by Australia.

"We`re determined to give a much better performance in the upcoming matches," said Walsh.
He said the team was working on the goal-scoring strategies and also player rotation.

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