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FIH World Cup 1998: Bad form strikes India yet again

ANALYST
Feature
284   //    20 Nov 2018, 13:12 IST

FIH Hockey World Cup 1998: The last time Dutch won the top honours
FIH Hockey World Cup 1998: The last time Dutch won the top
honours

FIH World Cup 1994 was a golden opportunity for India to make a legendary comeback in field hockey, they failed to grasp it.

Four years later after they missed the ticket to the final four by a whisker, India was nowhere near their best, and 1998 was the beginning of their worst phase in field hockey ever, which would culminate in the epic failure to qualify for the Beijing Olympics 2008.

Team India: A sordid affair despite an Olympic gold medalist as a coach

Following their dismal performance at the Atlanta Olympics, a rather young Indian team came up to Utrecht to stake their claim on the FIH World Cup 1998.

This was the first time that both the editions of the Hockey World Cup, both of men's and women's, were conducted at the same place.

India had technically nothing to worry about. They had one of the fiercest strikers, Dhanraj Pillay, along with them.

As their coach, they had none other than Vasudevan Bhaskaran, the winning captain of the Indian team that had clinched India's last ever Olympic medal at the Moscow Olympics 1980.

However, nothing on paper worked in reality. India struggled to find their form throughout the tournament, and they crashed out without a significant challenge, their lone win coming against New Zealand, whom they defeated by 1-0.

They only managed to scrape a face-saving ninth position, as they defeated New Zealand once again.

Pakistan crashes out without a tough fight

If one looks at their performance post-1994 World Cup, it wouldn't be wrong to say that the victory of 1994 was a false dawn for Pakistan.

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They couldn't even breach the top five, forget cruising into the semifinals of the Atlanta Olympics 1996.

The same dreadful story continued at the World Cup, where Pakistan, despite having players like Shahbaz Ahmed on their side, failed to cruise into the semifinals.

They managed to save their faces somehow by finishing a respectable fifth, defeating England by 4-2.

The Dutch win it

FIH World Cup 1998: Dutch players celebrate as they win the World Cup
FIH World Cup 1998: Dutch players celebrate as they win the World Cup

This edition was also the last time the Dutch won the Hockey World Cup. Having cruised into the semifinals with just a solitary loss against Germany, the Dutch shocked top favourites Australia, pummeling them by 6-2 to cruise into the finals.

However, their opponent was no pushover, and Spain, who had cruised into their first ever World Cup finals since the inaugural edition in 1971, had given the Dutch a living nightmare.

Barely managing to score an equalizer in the nick of time, the Dutch were forced to fight it out in the extra time, when Teun de Noojier finally came to their rescue, and won the golden goal for the Netherlands, defeating Spain by 3-2.

This was also the first time that a team had won the Field Hockey World Cup on their home soil.

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