India was outplayed. It was clear as crystal. The margin confirms it. After that exotic start on Sunday against Pakistan, the home team experienced the stress and strain of matching the Aussie expertise suffused in speed, skill and system.

The 2-5 reverse mirrored why the Aussies still are the team for the title in this Hero Honda hockey World Cup. This is even after the shocking defeat by England in the opener.

Coach Jose Brasa is pragmatic. He acknowledged the team was outpaced by the perfection of the Aussies in orchestrating a high degree of controlled pace at will. The usual pattern to launch a blitz in the first 10 minutes invariably pays off for the Australians. It succeeded to a nicety on Tuesday.

The defeat need not dishearten India. The few spells when the home team dominated convinced that the new tapestry is gaining a systematization if not to perfection.

The deep defence, despite the good work by Gurbaj, was overwhelmed by sheer pace. Mahadik strove manfully but Sandeep Singh looked a babe in the woods.

Halappa caught the eye in the midfield but more effective work came from Sardar Singh with support from Bharat Chikara.

Minus the sparkling runs by Rajpal and a few sallies by Prabhjot, the frontline work was weak, inconsistent and unimaginative. True, it missed the proficiency of Shivendra Singh, going through a two match ban. But Deepak Thakur was innocuous in both the games. And that left the attack incomplete and fragile.

With a win and defeat, India meets Spain on Thursday. Spain is also in the same boat with three points after winning the first against South Africa and going down to Pakistan on Tuesday. In both the matches, Spain's performance was uncharacteristic. That's surprising for a team with such high credentials in recent years.

The team is atrophied by the absence of its all rounder Santi Friexa, nursing a serious knee injury for months now. Pol Amat and Eduard Tabau along with Xaviar Ribas, have not found their wonted form. This is what makes coach Brasa believe the Spaniards cannot be equated with the Aussies.

Such optimism is welcome, perhaps inevitable, in restoring the morale of the team suffering from the blues after the thrashing by Australia. Brasa may be familiar with the rival team's strengths and frailties being a Spaniard himself. That is one positive factor.

If India is to stay in contention for a semi-final berth, an outright win is mandatory. And that makes the contest a key one in every sense.

For the record it must be noted that India has 23 victories against 17 defeats and nine draws against Spain from the 49 matches played so far. In the World Cup the teams share two victories each of the four played.

Forget the defeat and forge ahead. The inherent strength of this squad is good enough for that.

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