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2020 Oly Qualifier
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India and USA make a point in Bhubneswar (6/12/2019)
--s2h Team
Visiting India after two and half decades, American men are making a mark here in the Bhubaneswar FIH Series. The States' team, captained by an Indian origin player, had two continental champions in its pool. Both champions teams Japan and South Africa have wider pool of players to choose from, and strong competitive environ to warp their players than what the States' men team do. It was therefore expected they will face tough time to qualify for the semis either directly or through cross-over. However, they tamed both the champions teams here in Bhubaneswar to leave an indelible mark.

USA started their campaign with a bang, upsetting the apple cart of African Champions. The first day shocker was not turned out to be a fluke, as they followed it with a majestic 2-2 draw against Japan on the last day of pool. In between, their Pan American colleague Mexico 9-0. With an amazing 11 goal difference -- half of India's but second highest here -- the States team topped the pool though it had equal points with Japan.

Japan therefore was forced to play cross-over.

In the other pool, India's dominance was written all over the place. Though India beat both Russia and Uzbekistan on identical 10-0 goal margin, there is some room for scepticism.

The struggle of India against Poland -- which it ultimately won 3-1 thanks to an extraordinary game by its captain Manpreet Singh -- speak of Indian team's wonted habit of inconsistency. This view gained more currency as India had only a couple of months ago thrashed the Poles 10-0 at Ipoh. The quick change of score line did dent its image.

India need to prove its mettle in the semi-final. It is within their grasp.

Having known what happened to Malaysia in the second of FIH Series recently, caution and focus should be the guiding spirit of India. As the tournament enters the knock-out stage, its more than India the USA that made a point here.

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