India expect tough German challenge in semis

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> India look to it's star-studded forward line to deliver in semi-final clash with Germany in Hobart tomorrow in the 7th Junior World Cup Hockey Championships.

Updated: February 25, 2007 08:37 IST
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India will look to it's star-studded forward line to deliver the goods in the semi-final clash with Germany at the Tasmanian Hockey Centre here tomorrow in the 7th Junior World Cup Hockey Championships as they stand on the edge of qualifying for their second consecutive final. It will be a repeat of the 1997 edition when India beat Germany in the semi-final after a titanic clash with Rajiv Mishra scoring a breathtaking golden goal to clinch the match 4-3. "It will not be easy. Germans are very tough and they are tenacious. Even if they are down by a couple of goals, you can be sure they will come back and for the first time I think our defence will have to play superbly," coach Rajinder Singh said. "I have always said if the forwards convert the chances, it will not be a problem winning but in this match, we have to convert and guard our goal. No single player can relax." India had scored 15 goals in the three first round matches and conceded just one, the highest in the tournament among 16 teams. But their form wavered in the second round where they drew 2-2 with Argentina, lost 1-2 to Australia and then in a do-or-die battle put it across Holland 4-3 to qualify for the semi-finals. Thankfully, India do not have any injury scare except for a few bruises and paining joints. Overall, the boys have stood up to the rigours. Germany known to play the defensive format against sub-continental teams will most probably strengthen the midfield and keep three forwards upfront for long crosses and getting the penalty corners. That is where Jugraj Singh, Kanwalpreet Singh and Bikramjit Singh will have to excel over the Germans. Jugraj has a tendency of getting carried away in a skirmish and will have to play with a level head. A penalty corner given away at a crucial juncture will spell doom and the Germans have the knack of pushing for them towards the end of each half. Unlike India's runaway victories in the first round, the Germans were sedate, unimpressive and virtually clawing their way to wins. They beat Argentina 2-1, edged past New Zealand 2-1 and then were held to a 2-2 draw by Malaysia. But German coach Uli Forstner had an explanation: "A good horse only springs as high as it needs to." In other words, Germany will throw up a few aces that probably Rajinder Singh hasn't seen so far in the tournament. "Even we haven't showed everything," Rajinder Singh said. "No team in today's hockey will do that. Yes, but I believe goals should be scored when they are in reach. But definitely we have a couple of surprises for the Germans too." The load will be borne by skipper Gagan Ajit Singh, Deepak Thakur, the tournament's highest scorer with seven goals and Prabhjot Singh. The last named will have to curb some of his individual brilliance to send balls into the circle. The Indian midfield have had a topsy-turvy tournament but against Germany they just will have to deliver with Bimal Lakra needing to show the form that he is capable off. Goalkeeper Devesh Chauhan will have to watch out for the penalty corner variations. Expecting Germany to go in for direct flicks will be courting danger. All in all, as Rajinder Singh said, "Now is the time that the team will have to show what it is capable off." More also because a victory in the World Cup will sustain and revive the movement that Junior Hockey in India is going through. In the other semi-final, everything points to Argentina, purely on the tremendous form that they showed in the second round, beating Australia, Holland and drawing with India. (PTI)

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