India look for a repeat

– Hockey world cup
-Hosts have a job at hand today vs Aussies

JAYDEEP BASU

Fresh from their mind-boggling victory over Pakistan, India have yet another big match to play in Pool B when they take on the mighty Australians in the hockey World Cup on Tuesday.

India coach Jose Brasa has been talking about this match from the day the draw for the World Cup was released.

“We are in a tough group and the Australians are the biggest hurdle,” he said. “If they continue to perform the way they did in the Champions Trophy in Melbourne, then very few would be able to stop them from winning the title,” he said.

The Australians are perennial favourites for the title and certainly the most compact team in the tournament.

Sunday’s unexpected defeat against England makes them even more dangerous as they can be expected to go flat out to grab full points against India and stay in contention for a last four berth.

As such, India can expect a bruising and somewhat physical encounter against a team whose line-up is the envy of all. With FIH Player of the Year Jamie Dwyer leading from the front and the likes of Eddie Ockenden and Des Abbot for support, the Aussies pack the kind of punch that can knock out any opponent.

“It’s going to be a difficult match,” admitted Brasa. “They lost to England, but then England are a vastly improved team, working very hard for the London Olympics in 2012.”

To make matters more difficult for India, Australia coach Ric Charlesworth could well be looking forward to the match in order to prove a point. Last year, after being appointed technical director of Indian hockey, the revered coach was forced to leave following a bitter tiff with the authorities. Charlesworth so far has not said anything publicly but he would certainly not be in a charitable mood for the clash.

The Indian camp, however, was hardly worried. “We have just won a big game that has really boosted our confidence,” said India captain Rajpal Singh.

Rajpal Singh ,Jamie Dwyer

“Our team, I am sure, will continue to perform smoothly in the rest of the matches. Australia, too, are vulnerable, England have shown it on the opening day. We are not going to yield even an inch without a fight.”

Having won 51 of their 72 World Cup outings, Australia boast of a win-loss ratio of 71 per cent — higher than any other team.

Not only that, the team were runners-up in the last two editions and given the statistics Brasa has advised his boys to not get carried away by the triumph against Pakistan.

As for Australia, Charlesworth himself has acknowledged that Tuesday’s tie is a must-win match for his team.

The last match time the two teams met was in the Champions Trophy, five years back in Chennai, when Australia won 4-1.

Australia have come here on the back of their Champions Trophy triumph at home last year and the team are being seen as one of the title contenders. The Aussies are ranked No.2 in the world.

History, too, favours Australia with the Indians having won just one of the six World Cup matches involving the two sides.

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