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Hockey World League Final: India face Germany in 3rd place play-off

India will look to finish off their Hockey World League Final campaign on a high when they face Germany in the 3rd/4th place play-off on Sunday

other sports Updated: Dec 09, 2017 23:47 IST
Sharad Deep
Sharad Deep
Bhubaneswar
Hockey World League Final,Indian men's national hockey team,Manpreet Singh
India will take on Germany for the 3rd place in the Hockey World League Final.(Hockey India)

For Manpreet Singh and Co, this will be the last opportunity to impress a hockey-fanatic crowd at the Kalinga Stadium on Sunday when they take on world No 5 Germany in their bronze-medal match at the Hockey World League Final.

The last competitive match of the year could not have been more important for Sjoerd Marijne’s India in the overall context of team building for next year’s busy calendar. India will be putting in place a ‘three-peak’ strategy for the Commonwealth Games (Gold Coast), Asian Games (Jakarta) and the World Cup in Bhubaneswar.

Marijne’s India team is a work in progress as they stitch together a team capable of beating the top countries in FIH competitions, something they have failed to do consistently in recent times. India have only won bronze in the 2014-15 Hockey World League Final at Raipur and silver in the 2016 Champions Trophy in London, the first few medals after a lengthy drought.

This Indian team is its own enemy. It is capable of traversing from sublime to uninspiring in no time --- sometime in the same match. Interestingly, India’s recent surge on the ranking chart started with their win against Germany in the 2012-13 HWL Final in New Delhi. And, they would love to do so here on Sunday.

At the ongoing HWL Final here, the team got off to a rousing start by holding reigning world and HWL champions Australia to a draw. They slumped to a 1-2 defeat against England before dishing out a forgettable performance against Germany (0-2) to round off their preliminary round engagements at the bottom of the pool.

However, the format allowed them one more chance and they showed tremendous grit, tactical discipline and application in getting the better of Olympic silver medallists Belgium via sudden death shootout 3-3 (3-2) in the quarter-final, although they could have won in regulation time.

In the semi-final against Argentina on Friday, they were undone by a downpour. They were also upended by their initial inability to adapt tactically to the conditions, something the Argentines did manage. The result: Despite a stirring comeback in the last two quarters, Marijne’s boys failed to find the equaliser and lost by a solitary goal.

Thus, the importance of Sunday’s encounter needs to be looked in the overall context of their progress as a team. Winning bronze will leave them in high spirits for next year’s hectic schedule. It will also help them retain the bronze they bagged in Raipur and thus preserve the ranking points.

Time for the boys to at least win it for the fans, who braved heavy rains on Friday to support the team.

First Published: Dec 09, 2017 22:38 IST