Olympic hockey Preview: India heading for lowest finish

Olympics Day 7 - Hockey

London, Aug 6 (IANS) India will have to reconcile to playing for positions ninth to 12th and their result against Belgium on Tuesday would be of no consequence in the Olympic men’s hockey competition.With four defeats in as many matches, the Indian can at best hope to avoid a “clean sweep” of losses when they face a confident Belgium who qualified as the fourth placed team in the European Championships.

Thus, it can be said with certainty that India will be “achieving” their lowest position ever in the Olympics, the previous worst being eighth in the 1996 Games at Atlanta.

The current depressing scenario of the Indian hockey team here only serves to highlight misplaced expectations and hopes generated by all the hype and hoopla after qualifying for the Olympics in February.

On the morrow, the task before India is doubly difficult considering that Belgium, bronze medalists at the 1920 Games that they hosted in Antwerp, would be highly motivated to finish in the 5-8 bracket for the first time since 1956.

Even otherwise, India have never been comfortable playing Belgium whose man-to-man marking and a defensive posture can test the best of forwards.

Though the teams have met on many occasions in the recent times, Tuesday’s clash would be only the third in the Olympics with India having won 2-1 in 1968 and 9-0 in 1928.

Belgium, coached by Aussie legend Colin Batch, seemed to have had better preparations since qualifying for the Olympics by finishing fourth in the Euro championship where they beat silver medalists at the 2008 Games, Spain, 3-2 after trailing 0-2 at half-time.

Also, Belgium beat Argentina in a three-Test series and later drew with Spain and Olympic champions Germany in a four-nation tournament.

Skipper Maxime Luycx, a veteran of over 300 internationals, has already stated that Belgium, also known as the Red Devils, are keen to make up for the debacle in Beijing where the players were distracted by the return to the Olympics after a lapse of 32 years.

For India, it would be a question of playing for their pride if nothing else, but they are currently down in the dumps morale-wise, while the Belgians can draw inspiration from their performances against Korea whom they beat 2-1 and New Zealand (1-1).

Team India coach Michael Nobbs has publicly expressed his disappointment over the performance of the senior players, but it is also indicative of the Aussie’s inability to ensure the plans worked out at the team meeting are executed on the field.

Whatever, the situation for India cannot get any worse, but if they could win their remaining three games (one league and two classification), they can head back home in a better shape.

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Edited by Staff Editor
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