Punjab Gold Cup: Tough task for India against Netherlands in final

February 8th, 2009 - 2:45 pm ICT by IANS  

Chandigarh, Feb 8 (IANS) It will be a tough task for India when they take on European champions Netherlands in the final of the Punjab Gold Cup hockey tournament here Monday.
The Dutch team has been in a rampaging form in this tournament and has also registered a shocking win over World and Olympic champions Germany. In the last group match they thrashed their arch-rivals Germany 7-1.

Netherlands have started feeling at home and that could be matter of concern for India during the title clash at the Sector-42 Stadium.

“My boys took time to become habitual to Indian conditions. Both the drawn ties with India were hard-fought and a magnificent learning experience for us. The win against Germany showed that the boys were in good form now,” Dutch coach Michel Heuvel said on the eve of the final here Sunday.

India, which made a good start to the tournament, looked out of focus in their last two league games - losing 2-4 to Germany Friday and then just managing to scrape past New Zealand, the weakest team in this event, 3-2 Saturday.

In Saturday’s game against the Kiwis, the Indian defence was fully exposed as they conceded eight penalty corners to the opponents. It is another matter that the Black Sticks could not convert even one of them. At the same time, the Indian attack seemed so weak that it was unable to secure even one penalty corner in the entire game.

“We have recognised one grey area, that the team is conceding too many penalty corners to opponents. We need to work on this but I am happy that we are scoring more field goals, which is a healthy sign. However, we also need to improve more in our deep defence,” a worried Indian coach Harender Singh said.

India, which held Netherlands to two draws in this tournament, 4-4 in the first match and 2-2 in the second one, cannot afford to rest on this achievement alone. The Dutch team has remained undefeated in this tournament and given the fact that they have returned from good match practice in Australia, they will not allow any concession in the final Monday.

“We will have to fight hard against Netherlands now. We will try to cover up some of our weak points in our last two games,” Indian striker and local boy Rajpal Singh, who was man-of-the-match in Saturday’s game against the Kiwis, said.

With over 15,000-strong spectators turning up for most of the games featuring India last week, India will not have any dearth of home support but the team will have to fire as a unit.

Netherlands topped the points table with 14 points, winning four games and drawing two. India finished second with 11 points, winning three, drawing two games and losing one to Germany.

Beijing Olympics champions Germany, who came here with a relatively new team and only four Olympians, fared badly. The squad managed only five points, winning only one game, losing three and drawing two. New Zealand, the 7th ranked team in the world, finished at the bottom of the table with just two points from six outings. They lost four games and drew two.

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