India face herculean task against Australia (Hockey Preview)

New Delhi, Jan 14: India will have to come out with all guns blazing against reigning World Champions Australia in the Hockey World League Final quarterfinal at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium here Wednesday.

After two disappointing losses against England (0-2) and New Zealand (1-3), the hosts displayed a much improved performance against reigning Olympic champions Germany Monday, almost beating them until a goal by the World No.1 team in the dying moments forced a 3-3 draw.

However, to put three goals in the German goal past top keeper Tim Jessulat was a commendable performance and they can take heart from that. Though regular drag-flick expert V.R. Raghunath has struggled in the tournament, the role has been filled in well by defender Rupinder Pal Singh.

Skipper Sardar Singh has been off-colour in the centre. His lax approach in the final moments of the Germany game cost India the victory but Dharamvir Singh and S.V. Sunil have kept up the pace with goalie P.R. Sreejesh saving several shots to avoid embarrassment for the World No.10 team.

Unlike India, who finished fourth and last in Pool A, World No.2 Australia topped Pool B with two wins, over Argentina and Belgium, and a 0-1 loss to the Netherlands. A thumping 6-1 win over the Belgians Monday must have boosted their confidence a great deal ahead of the knock-outs.

“I don’t think we have been playing badly, just that we have not been rewarded. We have been making chances. We have a good deep squad and I am pleased with the younger players who are doing well,” said Australia head coach Ric Charlesworth.

The former Australia skipper added that India has the firepower to upset any team on a given day but questioned their belief to do so.

“India can upset anyone. They have the fire power but do they have the belief? They have not done it until they don’t believe they can. You have to play consistently and win game after game to win major competitions. India can be difficult to play against, in an important game especially at home,” added Charlesworth, who led the Kookaburras to the 2010 World Cup title here.

Quarterfinal line-up for Wednesday:

England vs Belgium

Germany vs Netherlands

Argentina vs New Zealand

India vs Australia

IANS