Indians look at arithmetic to reach semis

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Updated: February 25, 2007 08:37 IST
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After going down to Australia 1-2 in a crucial Pool F game yesterday, the Indians are looking at all the permutations and combinations that would keep them in the hunt for a semi-final berth in the 7th Junior World Cup Hockey tournament. Though India have a match in hand against Netherlands which they have to win, they also must wait for Argentina to beat Australia which seems a little unlikely since the Aussies, after their win against India, are a confident lot. India have only one point from two matches and lie at the bottom of the pool with Argentina leading with four points after a superb 3-2 verdict against The Netherlands. Australia have three points with Netherlands also on three. If Argentina beat Australia then the Latin Americans will top the pool with seven points and if India beat The Netherlands then India will go up to four points which would place them second in the pool and in the semifinals. But if Argentina and Australia play a draw, then India will have to score a big win against the Dutch so that the goal average is healthier than that of Australia, since India and the hosts will then be on four points each. The key is Argentina beating Australia and India getting the better of The Netherlands. Coach Rajinder Singh was still despondent after yesterday's defeat. "The more you think about it, the more helpless one feels. I am an optimist but I just can't think of how many chances we missed. Deepak (Thakur), Gagan (Ajit Singh), Prabhjot (Singh) had enough in the circle to close the match. And now we sit on the edge, our fate hanging on beating Netherlands and Argentina defeating Australia," he said. The Indian performance in the first round had almost made them the favourites but the draw against Argentina and yesterday's defeat have set off a debate as to how India manage to lose matches they dominate so completely. Against Australia they had penetrated the circle at least a dozen times. Even by the law of averages, they should have scored at least three goals. Though Australia had more penalty corners in the first half, India were almost camping in the Australian circle. Even in the second half, India enjoyed possession and more control over the match. Yet they couldn't score more than Jugraj's single penalty corner conversion while Australia showed fine opportunism in slotting in two goals. Most of the Indian forward line plays for the senior team and the team would need a lot of explaining to do if they go back without reaching the last four. For a team that was tipped to lift the Cup, it would be nothing short of a disaster. Rajinder Singh doesn't want to think that far ahead. "We still have a match and Argentina today defeated The Netherlands so we do have a chance. But first, let's get down to beating the Dutch and then we will think of the Argentina-Australia match". Earlier in the day, Argentina took a giant step towards a semi-final placing beating Holland 3-2. They had earlier held India to a 2-2 draw. Holland are on three points after beating Australia in their first match and now play India in their last Pool match tomorrow. It were the Dutch who opened the scoring in the 4th minute, Timo Bruinsma picked up a cross in the circle and then with a reverse shot beat the Argentine goalkeeper. Two minutes later, Argentina equalised when Lucas Cammareri trapped beautifully and with just the goalkeeper in front, picked a spot in the right corner to flick in. Argentina took the lead in the 20th minute after a superb run by Villa Rodrigo. Picking the ball from the left of the midfield, he ran unchallenged dropping defenders behind and then with the keeper in front, flicked it in. Holland had a penalty corner in the 32nd minute and after defending it cleanly, Argentina counter-attacked superbly. Alejandro Pasquali trapped the ball and with a turn beat the keeper on the right. At the break, Argentina led 3-1. The Netherlands started their fightback dominating the midfield as Argentina fell back a bit. After wasting five penalty corners, the Dutch converted the eighth when Jeroen Koops flicked in superbly in the 63rd minute to reduce the margin to 2-3. There was a flurry of frantic exchanges in the end with Argentina wasting a penalty corner in the dying minutes but they managed to hold off the Dutch to complete a fine victory. In the other matches of the day, South Africa drew with Malaysia 1-1 while New Zealand beat France 4-3. (PTI)

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