India to take on England in hockey semi-final

first_imgAfter the euphoria of the win over arch-rivals Pakistan, the Indians are getting their feet back on the ground to take on England in the men’s hockey semi-finals at the Commonwealth Games.India has never won a men’s hockey medal in the three editions in which the sport has featured. A win over England on Tuesday will ensure the hosts of at least the silver. Australia will take on New Zealand in the other semi-final.In the World Cup in February-March, India had a brilliant start beating Pakistan, but everything went downhill from there. The team management needs to guard against complacency.The Indians fed off the passion of a capacity crowd at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium as they thrashed their neighbours 7-4 on Sunday. It was a very open game which the home team thoroughly dominated, but they can expect a very different match against England. The Englishmen are unlikely to offer much space in the field and the hosts cannot afford to leave any room in their defence. The two teams played three practice games of different durations against each other before the competition started, with the Indians winning two and drawing one.But India coach Jose Brasa stressed those matches will not count for anything when the teams take the field on Tuesday. England, the European champions, reached the semi-finals of the World Cup at the same venue earlier this year. As far as the rankings are concerned England are placed five spots above India at fourth. England had beaten India 3-2 at the World Cup and it would be an ideal stage for the hosts to extract revenge.advertisementThe team remains more or less the same for both sides. England has the deadly drag-flicker Ashley Jackson in their line-up and the Indians will hope he does not get many chances to score.Sandeep Singh scored two goals through penalty corners against Pakistan but his overall strike rate still leaves room for improvement. Brasa will hope he is at his best in the semi-final. The forward line of skipper Rajpal Singh, Shivendra Singh, Dharamvir Singh and Tushar Khandker excelled in the last game and will need to continue their good performance. Midfielders Arjun Halappa, Bharat Chikara, Vikram Pillay, Danish Mujtaba and Sarvanjit Singh will have to be on their toes as the linkmen between defence and attack.However, custodian Bharat Chetri, who has let in 11 goals in four matches at the tournament, needs to pull up his socks. A prominent feature of India’s performance against Pakistan was the effective runs on the wings which stretched the rival defence. This tactic must continue against England.It would be dangerous to assume that the English threat would come only through penalty corners. Captain Barry Middleton is a very accomplished player, as was evident at the World Cup. Nick Catlin, Richard Alexander, James Tindall and Alastair Brogdon have the experience to get it across the Indians at this venue and will call upon that experience.The Mantell siblings – Simon and Richard – will add a bit more steel to the outfit. Simon had to withdraw from the squad just days before the team left for the World Cup while his brother joined him midway through the tournament after breaking his ankle in the match against Pakistan. They would not be lacking motivation.last_img

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