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 August 2, 2002 | 1815 IST

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Conceding late goals is
cause for concern

With a victory still eluding India in the Champions Trophy, its hopes of finishing among the top four in the prestigious hockey tournament now rest solely on its defence, particularly goalkeeping, against Australia, in a crucial match on Tuesday.

Having drawn 3-3 with Holland and lost 2-3 to World champions Germany, India will hope to arrest the downward trend against the World Cup runners-up in what promises to be a thrilling contest.

But for that the team will have to ensure a water-tight defence and hope that the frontline of Prabhjot Singh, Gagan Ajit Singh, Deepak Thakur and Dhanraj Pillay deliver the goods.

In the two matches that India played, the forwards managed to sneak in the goals but momentary lapses in concentration at crucial periods of the game proved costly. In both their matches, against Holland and Germany, they allowed the opposition to score in the dying minutes and surrender the advantage.

The situation would have been vastly different had India held on to their 3-2 lead against Holland and kept the scoreline to 2-2 against Germany. Four points in the bag would have meant India would have been placed second in the points tally, a much better position than the fifth they enjoy in this six- nation tournament at present.

Coach Rajinder Singh was, however, happy with the way the team has played thus far. "I think I can say I am satisfied. They have fought well and have got the goals that were not coming in earlier tournaments," he said.

He was, however, worried about the team's inability to defend the citadel at the fag end of the match.

"Yes, I am concerned with the late goals that the team has been conceding, but I think with time the boys will learn to hold their own in pressure situations."

The India coach has every reason to believe in his team but the fault cannot be taken away from the boys. Captain Dilip Tirkey, with over 200 internationals under his belt, has the experience but was found wanting in the tackle. In the match against Germany, Tirkey was beaten more than a couple of times by the speed of Oliver Domke and Timo Wess.

The same goes for goalkeeper Devesh Chauhan. He did his share of the work under the bar when India won the junior World Cup and was fielded in the last three matches of the 2002 World Cup after regular goalkeeper Jude Menezes flopped. For him to be beaten by straight flicks, aimed at the body, should be a huge personal dissapointment.

On tournament form, Australia are at their lowest, especially after the 1-6 battering that they received from the Dutch and it would be good if the Indians can go all out and test their defence from the word go.

"That is what we hope to do," said Rajinder Singh. "They are a good team but the Dutch showed that they were getting beaten on the counter-attack. That is where all the Dutch goals came from."

Rajinder Singh's hope that the Indian goals will come from counter-attacks is a fair assesment of what has transpired till now in the tournament.

Champions Trophy 2002: The Complete Coverage