Captain Sardar Singh doesn't rule out heroics vs Australia at Hockey World League semis today, but points to opponents' No 1 rank as compared to India's ninth place
Antwerp (Belgium): Coach Paul Van Ass and skipper Sardar Singh are very realistic about their chances against Australia in their final group match in the Hockey World League here at KHC Dragons. Australia and India are both unbeaten, but the former have three wins to India's two wins and a draw.
India captain Sardar Singh. Pic/Getty Images
"We have beaten Australia in recent past in a series, but let's be realistic. They are No 1 and we are No 9. The team has been improving with each game and let's see how it goes." Sardar as usual was reticent, "We will do our best and we are going match by match."
Presence of youth
Refusing to be drawn into any lengthy pre-match talk, Van Ass said, "This is a young team and some of our seniors are not here. But we have shown that we are improving. So, there are positives." Interestingly, India had three big losses against Australia in tournaments in 2014 — 4-0 (World Cup), 4-2 (CWG League) and 4-0 (CWG final).
But in November, the Indians beat the Australians 3-1 in a four-match series. A month later in December Australia beat India 2-1 in the battle for bronze at the Champions Trophy. This year two months ago in April at the 2015 Azlan Shah Cup tournament in Malaysia, India stunned Australia 4-2 with a hat-trick by Nikkin Thimmaiah.
The 4-2 win in Azlan Shah was Van Ass' big moment in his new assignment. Also, the Aussies in Ipoh, Malaysia also had a few front liners missing, including goalkeepers Andrew Charter and Tyrell Lovell, besides the likes of Kieran Govers and Matthew Swann. Still it was a good win for India.
On Friday, India also had the better of exchanges against Pakistan in the 2-2 draw, where Indians were at one stage down to nine men. "I have been telling the players that they need to be careful on that because we can concede goals during that period," said Van Ass.
Indian girls put up a commendable performance even as the Australian girls, who are No 2 in the world, won 4-2. Jodie Kenny scored all four goals for Australia. For India, Vandana Katariya and Poonam Rani scored.
India will meet Netherlands in the quarter-final. New Zealand topped the pool, while Australia were second.
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