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Indian Coach Joaquim Carvalho sounds confidence (5/7/2007)
--K. Arumugam
Indian chief coach Joaquim Carvalho believes his young team is full of potential and it would deliver.

And if the indications are anything to go by after India finished two matches in the ongoing Sultan, Joaquim's optimism could well be taken seriously.

Though India lost the tournament opener by the slenderest of margins, the new experimental Indian team showed glimpses of class, especially in making counter attacks and effectively blocking the battery of the Aussies's forwards. They match was evenly fought and the Prabodh Tirkey's baptism as captain deserved a draw.

Against China on Sunday, India matched goal for goal and in the last ten minutes led 5-3. China's precision in penalty corner conversions, which is anyway the hall mark of their Korean coach Kim Sam Ryul, (Who can forget his team's 3 goals out of four penalty corners in the 1994 Asian Games against India in the final), alone gave the match an even looking scoreboard.

So after two matches in 26 hours, the new coach, who is in his first month of his appointment, looked relaxed on Monday. With two back to back matches, I was bit nervous but looking back both days of action, am happy. My faith in the boys improved. They are a motivated lot now, and are eager to scale further, Joaquim said.

Elaborating his strategy he said, ¡§Our traditional strength is attacking. I keep that in mind all the time. After we scored five goals against China, I am convinced we should focus on attacking game¡¨.

Joaquim also feels the new set of players like Vikram Kanth, Bharat Chikara, and Gurbaj are doing excellent and will improve as the days go by. ¡§

We have set out for an important task, that is, to qualify for the Olympics. Azlan Shah is a stepping stone. We have to go miles before thought of achieving our immediate target of qualifying for the Olympics. Victory, if comes here, will be a bonus, and not in end itself. I feel the boys need to be given enough experience at international level before assessing their true potential. I am very well-versed with domestic hockey in India and therefore confident that these boys will deliver. I have not selected them without giving a clear thought to each player's calibre¡¨.

India though appears strong on attack, it defence looks ordinary at times. China were not at their best, yet could manage to garner penalty corners at will. As regards forwards, missed chances outnumber. What is the use in making so many so efforts that take the ball into the striking area, but goes without a shot at goal? Joaquim points at inexperience at this juncture, but it loks age-old problem of India. With a bit more accuracy, alert and seriousness on this vital area, India might reach the semis here in Azlan Shah Cup. If it happens, it will be tremendous boost for the sagging morale of the game.

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