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Error-prone India eye Olympic semifinal berth after 36 years

 The Hawk |  2016-08-13 19:18:28.0  0  Comments

Error-prone India eye Olympic semifinal berth after 36 years

Rio de Janeiro: A win away from scripting their best-ever showing in Olympics after 36 years, Indian men's hockey team would look to cut down on silly errors and raise their game by leaps and bounds to upstage a formidable Belgium in the quarterfinal of the Rio Games here tomorrow. India had already achieved a feat by qualifying for the knock-out stage of Olympics after a long hiatus and, come tomorrow, the PR Sreejesh-led side would like to go one step further in their quest for an elusive Olympic medal. India qualified for the last eight round after finishing fourth in Pool B with two wins, two losses and a draw, accumulating seven points in the process. India won against Ireland (3-2) and Argentina (2-1) but lost two close encounters against reigning Olympic champions Germany (1-2) and silver medallist Netherlands (1-2) before they were held to a 2-2 draw by minnows Canada in their last preliminary encounter. Belgium, on the other hand, topped Pool A with four wins out of five games. The Red Lions' only loss came against New Zealand (1-3) in their final group match yesteday. Going by world rankings, there is hardly anything to differentiate between the two teams as India are placed fifth while Belgium is just one rung below at sixth position in FIH chart. But in the Games so far, Belgium are on red hot form and have stunned strong gold medal contenders and world champions Australia in the pool stages. The Red Lions also won against Spain, Great Britain and minnows Brazil and their only blemish came against New Zealand. India, on the other hand, have blown hot and cold. Even though they showed sparks in their first four matches, what cost them dear were silly mistakes committed in the late stages of those encounters. Against Germany the Indians conceded a goal just three seconds from the final hooter to lose the match, while against Netherlands too the backline conceded a penalty corner in the final minutes of the fourth quarter and the Dutch were quick to pounce on the opportunity. Despite the losses, India's spirited performances against the top teams were praised by all and sundry till the very last game against Canada, where they looked lacklustre. India started as hands down favourites against world no.15 Canada but the eight-time Olympic champions dished out a nervy display to split points, a match from where they needed full points to secure third position in Pool B. Against Canada too the Indians were guilty of committing silly errors towards the end. Leading 2-1, India were dominating the proceedings but Nikkin Thimmaiah committed an unnecessary foul outside the cirle in the last 10 minutes of the game.

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