India eye miracle vs Aus in FIH WL quarters

Rotterdam: An error-prone India need nothing short of a miracle to secure a direct berth in next year's hockey World Cup as they take on formidable Australia in the quarterfinals of the men's competition of the FIH World Round 3, here today.

Six top teams — three each — will qualify directly for the 2014 World Cup to be held in Hague, The Netherlands from the two editions of FIH World League Round 3 — the ongoing event in Rotterdam and then the next one to be held in Malaysia from June 29 to July 7.

But for India it is now looking extremely difficult to be among one of those six teams as in the last eight round world ranked second Australia await them, a side against whom the Indians hold a poor record in the recent past.

India, however, could take heart from the fact that they put up a much-improved performance to eke out a fighting 3-3 draw against higher-ranked New Zealand in their last match to finish third in Pool B with two points.

After two pretty ordinary outings against lower-ranked Ireland (4-4) and hosts Netherlands (0-2), the Indians displayed an attacking brand of hockey against the Black Sticks from the starting hooter last night.

Considered a perennial problem, the defence continued to hurt India in the tournament.

The Sardar Singh-led India, who dominated the match throughout, however paid the price for poor defending and conceded a goal four minutes from time against New Zealand to return winless from the group stage.

Against New Zealand, the 11th ranked Indians had far more possession, more penetration at the opposition striking circle and more shots at target in the fast-paced match.

But come tomorrow the Indian strikers will need to put up a much-better performance and cannot afford to let go scoring opportunities against the well-built Australians.