India sets up title clash with the Netherlands

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Celebrating a strike: India’s Prabhjot Singh congratulates Rajpal Singh after he scored against New Zealand in the Punjab Gold Cup tournament.
Celebrating a strike: India’s Prabhjot Singh congratulates Rajpal Singh after he scored against New Zealand in the Punjab Gold Cup tournament.

Vijay Lokapally

The Netherlands drubbed Germany 7-1

Rajpal Singh scored a brace against the Kiwis

CHANDIGARH: National selector Zafar Iqbal was mighty pleased with India’s performance in the ongoing Punjab Gold Cup hockey tournament here.

A title clash with The Netherlands on Monday was “very good news” for hockey lovers in the country and Zafar had his reasons to back this outfit.

The Netherlands taught Germany a few lessons as it made a mockery of the opposition by winning 7-1 and making things easy for India.

A formality

The big victory by the Netherlands reduced the India-New Zealand match to a formality. India won 3-2 to take its points tally to 11.

Needing to win by a huge margin, Germany came a cropper and ended the competition with five points while the Netherlands finished the league stage with 14.

Wouter Jolie and Jeroen Hertzberger scored two goals each while Constantijn Jonker, Robbert Kemperman and Lucas Judge contributed one each in the Dutch victory. Germany got its lone goal in the 66th minute through Christopher Wesley.

The overflowing galleries, with kids and women a large part of the audience, has been a very heartening aspect of the tournament at the Sector 42 Stadium.

“This is what hockey needs — support from the public. We have to give priority to hockey. I have no issues with the popularity of cricket and its massive following but hockey requires huge support from every possible quarter,” said Zafar even as Rajpal Singh knocked in India’s first goal against New Zealand in the sixth minute.

Logo imbroglio

The Indians took the field by hiding the ‘TK’ logo on their jerseys following a notice by Sahara India, the official sponsor of Indian hockey for five years now.

‘TK’ is a Jalandhar based sports good company. The matter is expected to be sorted out soon.

“There is lot of hard work to be done,” admitted Zafar. “It is a long journey but then I am happy the way we have performed so far.

“Of course, the performance against Germany (on Friday) was most forgettable but I am sure the players would have learnt from the mistakes. It is true we may not have great talent but these boys are willing to strive. And that to me has been the strength of the side in this tournament.”

New Zealand got its equaliser through Nicholas Wilson in the 40th minute as the Indian defence became complacent.

The team, having rested regular goalkeeper Baljit Singh and midfielder Vikram Pillay, obviously was preserving its energy for the final.

“We have three big tournaments ahead and winning the final here would be a huge boost,” said Zafar.

Rajpal knocked in his second goal in the 55th minute before New Zealand again equalised seven minutes later through Richard Petherick.

An opportunistic effort three minutes from the end by Ignace Tirkey sealed the contest in India’s favour.

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