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2018 World Cup News
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Argentina starts on the right foot (11/30/2018)
--Errol D’Cruz
Olympic champions Argentina reminded one that the making of champions very often means winning matches even when not playing well – at least by one’s own standards and targets.

It happened on Thursday in the South Americans’ 4-3 win against Spain in a World Cup thriller that produced five goals at the end of the first quarter at which Argentina led 3-2.

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“I was not happy with our defence and ball possession in the first half,” said German Orozco, the Argentinean coach confessed.

Argentina, however, were able to call upon their trump card Gonzalo Peillat, widely regarded as the best drag-flicker in the world.

The top scorer at the Rio Olympics two years back scored twice from three penalty corners his team earned – putting away the first award to start his Bhubaneswar campaign in style.

Argentina have had turbulent times in the run-up to the World Cup. Carlos Retegui, the passionate coach who fashioned an Olympic champion team, parted ways with after disagreements with senior members early this year. Orozco, Retegui’s successor, touched upon the delicate situation of handling star players in a team.

“Yes, it’s difficult but also easy. Top players give their best in training because they know what it takes to become champions,” the 42-year-old, who was a teammate to some of the players in the current team.

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One of them Pedro Ibarra, the veteran defender and captain, suggested that the Olympic success is now history. “We may be the Olympic champions but this is another team and we have another coach. We don’t care what happened before and we are happy we have started this tournament on the right foot,” the 33-year-old said. His words also mean that the Rio gold medal brought no added pressure to win the title here in Bhubaneswar where Argentina, nicked named Les Leones (The Lions), have now to counter France and New Zealand in Pool A. The French went down to the Kiwis 1-2 in a taut match played later in the day at the Kalinga Stadium and Orozco knows there is no room for complacency as the battle hots up in a tricky pool.

Fred Soyez, the Frenchman coaching Spain, has built a solid philosophy of teamwork over individual play which, in a sense, is a paradox of sorts.

Soyez, a player of consummate skill, could have walked into any side in the world at the peak of his playing days not so long ago.

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Also, among his charges, Soyez has Enrique Gonzales de Castejon, the 2016 Junior World Cup star in Lucknow who bids fair to revive the dying art of ball control and dribbling.

Forty-year-old Soyez said in no uncertain terms his team was better on the day and that he and his players are going to dissect their performance to discern what went wrong.

He hopes to do that before the next game against his countrymen France on Monday where a point at least would be crucial to his team’s progress in the tournament.

Photos by Siddharth Mittal of www.stick2hockey.com

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