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The Hindu: Hockey Series Finals: India has swung between brilliant and below par (6/10/2019)
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The Hindu: Hockey Series Finals: India has swung between brilliant and below par

Uthra Ganesan

The likes of Akashdeep, Mandeep and Ramandeep will have to take more responsibility

The Indian men’s hockey team will be up against its own objectives rather than the opposition when it takes on Uzbekistan in its last Pool A match of the Hockey Series Finals (HSF) here on Monday.

The fifth-ranked India plays the 43rd ranked minnows but while coach Graham Reid will have little to worry about in terms of the result per se, it is the various sub-plots and plans that he will be concerned about.

In the two games India has played so far, the team has swung between brilliant and below par with Reid trying to come to terms with the extremes.

Area of concern

This switching-on, switching-off of players, especially the strikers, through a game has been an area of concern for Reid.

What has also been worrying is the inability of the forwards to score despite creating chances galore.

The likes of Akashdeep Singh, Mandeep Singh and a fit-again Ramandeep Singh will have to take more responsibility.

Ensuring the players stick to the structure and not get complacent about the opposition will also be on Reid’s radar, trying to fine-tune the team’s plans before the knockout games.

With the two pool toppers getting direct entry into the semifinals, India is unlikely to have much trouble reaching there.

The other two last four spots will be taken up after cross-over games between the second and third placed sides from each pool.

Russia upsets Poland

On Sunday, Russia upset higher-ranked Poland 3-2 to leapfrog into the second spot in Pool A, behind India.

The Poles, who only had to ensure a draw to stay ahead of their neighbour, were stunned by Russia’s aggressive play from the start, mixed with stubborn defence that allowed no space to score.

Poland coach Karol Sniezek had anticipated a European face-off but will be disappointed with the result as it put his team in a difficult playoff for a semifinal spot.

With USA taking on Asian Games champion Japan in the battle for top spot in Pool B and direct qualification for semifinals, Poland will have to face the loser of that match to stay in the race and keep its Olympic dreams alive.

South Africa will square off against Mexico in another Pool B game.

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