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Nirmal
Monday, January 30, 2023

Under-ruled India looks defeated.

FeaturedSports NewsUnder-ruled India looks defeated.

The mood is sad. No matter how much you comfort them, the damage will sting. From tears of joy on a hot August afternoon in Tokyo to tears of sadness in Bhubaneswar on Sunday, fall is hard to digest.

Manpreet Singh, who captained the Indian hockey team to a bronze medal a year and a half ago, was on his knees staring at the field. Akashdeep Singh, who missed out on Tokyo and was desperate for a World Cup medal here, sat in goal after a humiliating loss to New Zealand in the crossover.

Hardik Singh, who could have made a difference but for his injury, sat silently by his side, unable to say anything to his senior partner.

A home loss in front of 16,000 fans at the Kalinga Stadium, who were expecting a medal like in Tokyo, would not go away. But they still have to get up from it. And quickly.

The world No. 6 team will take on Asian Games gold medalists Japan in the 9-16 position ranking playoffs at the new Bursa Munda Hockey Stadium in Rourkela on Thursday. If they win, India will then play the 9-12 playoffs on Saturday. If they lose, they will face the indignity of playing in the 13-16 playoffs.

The situation is a bit more difficult for India. If the host wins, there will be no recognition or appreciation for the result as it is merely a ranking playoff for the last eight positions in the tournament. If they lose, criticism, questions, and condemnation will increase.

And Japan won’t make things easy for the hosts. They are hungry. After losing all three of their Pool B matches against Belgium, Germany and South Korea, the world number 18 outfit will be looking for quick success. India can be an opportunity for them. A relegated team after a disappointing defeat, Japan will come out all guns blazing with nothing to lose.

Last year, the two teams met three times – each time in the Asia Cup – with Japan convincingly winning the group opener 5-2 before India swept the Super 4s (2-1) and the bronze medal play-off ( 1-0) I was on top. ).

But the Indian team that went to the Asia Cup in Jakarta last year was a second-rate squad with juniors and senior players making up the bench strength. The last time the two sides faced off at full strength was in 2021.

In the pool stages of the Tokyo Olympics, India defeated the hosts 5–3 in July 2021. The two teams met twice in the 2021 Asian Champions Trophy in Dhaka where India defeated Japan 6–0 in the round robin but Japan returned the contest. Defeated India 5-3 in the semi-final.

Thursday’s match has a lot at stake. While India’s best finish in a World Cup was in Kuala Lumpur 1975 when they won the tournament just once. But their worst was London 1986 when India finished 12th and last – just six years after winning gold at the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

If India lose on Thursday, they will be fighting for positions 13-16 on Saturday, which would automatically make it their worst ever result in a World Cup. On day one, the World Cup was a 12-team affair. Kuala Lumpur expanded to 16 teams in 2002 before returning to 12 teams in 2006. It became a 16-team tournament again in Bhubaneswar 2018 when India finished sixth after losing 1–2 to eventual finalists Netherlands in the quarter-finals.


The World Cup

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