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2008 OQ: Chile Qualifier
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It will be Flamboyance Vs Controlled Game (3/9/2008)
--K. Arumugam
The crucial Chile Olympic Qualifier final is just 24-hours away. Traditions giants India and Great Britain will lock horns, and the winner would elevate themselves to Beijing status. In many ways the victors would have retrieved their country’s hockey honour and tradition.

To miss an Asian Olympics where a couple of decades ago the British regained the gold – Seoul -- will be heart rendering for them. For India also the predicament is same. It won its last full team gold in 1964 at Tokyo. But very sad one of them should miss.

If the form of two teams are any indication in the tournament, Great Britain certainly looks more disciplined in the sense they carefully carve the moves, capitalize the chances and keep cool under pressure.

India was not on backseat either on many counts, but some old habits do not seem to have gone. Especially of note is individual play. Luckily for Indians, all the matches they played since the present coach Joaquim Carvalho took over were telecast in India. Against this benefit, one can say with a measure of authority that in Chile the team is slightly different from what had been till then. Quick parting of the ball, building the moves, set pieces seemed to have taken a back seat while over-enthusiasm to score takes the centre stage. This is the traditional strength of Asian hockey which we condemned for long. The flurry of goals India amassed in the last tournament – Asia Cup – and also in the ongoing event (11-0 Vs Mexico and 8-0 Vs Russia) somehow seemed to have the players believe in reveling outscoring mindset. This flamboyance might flummox the British, and if it will be so, India will be victors.

Everyone in the Indian frontline including Gurbaj Singh, go for the goals and relish shots at goals. It seems the strategy is to have as many strikers as possible to avail the chances. Having a battery of strikers is good, but those blind shots on the side nets should be avoided.

Another heartening development is our pointsman Raghunath scoring – none is excited about his field goals – a brace against a strong side like the British. This is a good sign and if he would supplement Dilip Tirkey’s great record of scoring in the crucial matches, India won’t have much of a problem.

Many here in India believe, which this writer endorses, that the defeat on last Thursday at the hands of the British should be viewed as a wake up call and its lessons should be learnt. Play a controlled game and play it for full seventy minutes.

The British side is known for its perseverance and resilence. Be it Monchengaldbach World Cup, Boom Champions Challenge or in the last Champions Trophy, the team proved beyond doubt that it becomes increasingly invincible as the tournament progresses.

Secondly, the trump is Mantell Sr. India’s lethargy in defence, that is, giving away penalty corners could well become his bonanza. And in David Alexander, the English has a great all rounder and he is a bundle of energy. His pace and precision outlasts others in the fray. The British’s defense plank has upper hand over India, which is natural for the teams that mentally tuned to two different styles of play.

All said and done, if you take sides and weigh down by the if and buts of one team not in the Olympics, and not passionate about a particular team, then you can enjoy hockey on Monday morning.

One thing is certain. The morning wake up won’t go waste. Interesting stuff lies ahead.

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