India to face Germany in WC opener

Updated: 25 February 2007 10:36 IST

India take on hosts and defending champions Germany in their opening match at the Hockey World Cup in Monchengladbach on Wednesday.

India to face Germany in WC opener

New Delhi:

India take on hosts and defending champions Germany in their opening match at the Hockey World Cup in Monchengladbach on Wednesday. The Indian Hockey Federation has announced a prize of Rs 1 crore to the Indian team for winning the title, but not many are betting on India providing an encore of their 1975 triumph. Germany and the Netherlands will in fact be their toughest opponents in the challenging Pool B, with two out of the six teams from this group making it to the last four. Not surprising then, that Indian coach V Baskaran wants to take it one game at a time "It's too early to tell about what targets I have in mind. If at all, it all depends on the first game and how we proceed along," he said before the Indian team's departure. "The Netherlands are always a good side to play. They are a very soft side in terms of strategies and everything. Looking at it match-by-match, because we are playing the last match against them. We'll see where we stand after four games, and it'll be advantageous to us too," he added. India are hampered by the absence of star penalty-corner striker Sandeep Singh, who suffered an unfortunate bullet injury last month. V R Raghunath was widely tipped to take on the mantle, but it now seems that Arjun Halappa will have to perform the role of a drag-flicker. "It's not like we'll stop taking penalty corners or anything. Yes, it puts pressure on us to score many more field goals, but it's not as though we'll stop taking corners, since Dilip and Kanwalpreet can both score. And most goals nowadays come through short corners," said Arjun Halappa. India finished a dismal 10th in the last world cup in Kuala Lumpur four years ago, but the team's form has improved after a bad start to the year, where they lost a home-and-away series against Pakistan. Their bronze-medal win at the recent Sultan Azlan Shah cup has rekindled hopes of a second world cup title and the first since 1975. But the team will still start as the firm underdogs, given the fact that Germany, the Netherlands and Olympic champions Australia are the favourites to occupy the three podium spots again.

Topics : Hockey Football
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