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Asian Games 2014
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Asian Games: Home truth beckons India (9/29/2014)
--K. Arumugam
home truth beckons Indian men's hockey team, as the meet the hosts Korea tomorrow in the semifinals of the Incheon Asian Games.

A ball of gloom descended today in India, as their distaff side were easily distanced from their ambition to reach the finals by the Korean girls, with a 3-1 victory, despite being sloppy in many areas of the game.

Indian men's team, which is far more experienced and result givers compared to their women counterparts, now has the onerous task of lifting the morale of India at Incheon. First thing for that is to lift their own morale, which seems on low after a string of unsatisfactory performance including woeful circle show again Pakistan.

The hosts, living upto the expectation of the home crowd, have always been a tough nut in crunch matches, habitually lifting their game to required level.

That is exactly the strength of Korea and also the factors why it could unseat both India and Pak from their premier position in Asian field hockey. Take for instance, last Asia Cup. India defeated Korea 2-0 with a goal apiece in the first and ten minutes of the league encounter.

India however could not sustain the level of consistency required, in the final. Both teams tied 3-3 at 64th minute, India could have stretched them to tie-breaker to create another Bangkok kind of Gold, but it was not to be.

At 68th minutes, that is less than two minutes left for the hooter, Ka Moon Kyen struck the death blow, with that a ticket to The Hague.

That is Korea, they have a knack of turning out great form when matters, a penalty corner converted in the last two minutes in 2002 Asiad final too is fresh in everybody's mind.

Therefore, it is prudent not to consider 3-0 rout of last World Cup and consider India has some psychological advantage.

Its not there. India has to work hard, and pull up socks to set their eyes on the final, which can keep their Gold and direct passage to Rio Olympics.

The Sardar Singh's boys in Incheon did not show even an inch better compared to Glascow or The Hague performance.

If it all, they struggled even against less-fancied and easily beatable sides in this Asiad.

A glaring lacuna of course is penalty corner- either getting them matching with the quality of circle entries or converting them with a systemic rhythm. Indian PC department looks jaded, barren, and even low on scheming.

The team cannot parrot out the reason that Rupinder Pal is not there on the play field due to injury.

Injury happens to any player in any tournament, the top teams are supposed to have plan Two.

Here in Incheon, otherwise reliable Raghunath have to rise to the occasion tomorrow to cover up the glaring lacuna.

Indians must have by now seen how sharp their tomorrow's rival is inside D. Indians have to be hawkish inside D, and be able to convert half chances into full, though at present even sitters are allowed to roll by due to ball watching or poor anticipation.

Social media is even agog with a jocular post that what was the last occasion a particular player trapped the ball inside D etc.

India need to be a professional side tomorrow, glimpses of which were seen against Pakistan though. While Pak played individual game, which is risky, while Indians played a compact, team game.

Tomorrow will also mark whether our hockey is worth the budget it spends.

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