Hockey Correspondent

New Delhi: India takes on Argentina in what is viewed as a face-saving contest of the Hero Honda hockey World Cup on Friday.

If the verdict is favourable to the home team, the seventh spot would be a marginal improvement on the 11th in the last edition at Monchengladbach in 2006.

Can this happen? This is the poser, given the predictability of India's unpredictability and Argentina's better record in the World Cup.

Poor showing

Statistics are not sacrosanct in the light of the fact that both teams struggled to take the fourth spot in the table.

India's poor showing after the great start against Pakistan and the manner in which the team managed to stay in the reckoning for a 7-8 tie after drawing 3-3 with South Africa, is a cause for concern.

On the contrary, Argentina improved after an insipid start against the Netherlands, steadily improved its showing and bundled the Kiwis out of contention for the same spot and then almost outplayed Canada in the final tie.

Argentina has always been an enigma for India and continues to be. It plays a brand of hockey, the essence of which is power amalgamating with aggression.

Sharp strikers

All the frontline players like Mario Almada and Lucas Vila are sharp strikers who can turn the contest around in minutes.

So, it goes without saying that India has a huge task to conquer a formidable outfit. The positive point is that in the last encounter at Salta, India had beaten Argentina for a podium place.

How well India makes capital of the porous Argentine defensive structure is to be watched with interest.

There is no denying that Rajpal Singh and his players owe a debt to the large crowd whenever India figures in a contest in this World Cup.

A seventh place is no consolation for all the resources, time and effort spent on preparing the national squad. But a win tomorrow will be a balm to the many wounded hearts here.

Never have the expectations been greater before the 12th edition. But many of them have been belied.

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