HOCKEY / India takes on France before facing Poland, Canada
A bad day on the pitch may change the story. Canada has already experienced it and India will be cautious of it.
The shock defeat to Poland pushed Canada, the second-ranked side in the men's Olympic hockey qualifier here, to the third place while France, tied with overwhelming favourite India on six points, captured the second spot in the table after the first set of matches.
Time and again India's chief coach Michael Nobbs has rated France as a strong opponent and India will need his strategic acumen to emerge successful in its next clash against the low-profile French team.
History suggests that India has won nearly 70 per cent of its matches against France, while around 20 per cent of them have ended as draws.
The result of the last meeting between the two sides in Paris in 2010 was a 2-2 deadlock.
France captain Arnaud Becuwe admires the skill level of the Indian players. At the same time, he proudly talks about his experienced team's fighting abilities.
The Indian forwardline — consisting of S.V. Sunil, Tushar Khandekar, Gurvinder Singh Chandi, Shivendra Singh and Sarvanjit Singh — will have to give a test of stamina and creativity against the French side, which banks on its strong midfield headed by Becuwe himself.
The home drag-flickers — Sandeep Singh, V.R. Raghunath and Rupinderpal Singh — have to try out newer variations to maintain the rate of success they had achieved against Italy.
India's defence, led by the experienced Ignace Tirkey, will have to work hard to check the progress of the skilful Genestet brothers (Hugo and Martin).
With the task of facing tougher rivals, in Canada and Poland, later this week, India will have to first mobilise its resources to garner maximum points from its engagement against France.
Nobbs has ensured the Indian players do not get carried away with the massive wins over lowly sides like Singapore and Italy. After all, the real test begins now.
Men: Singapore vs Canada (2 p.m.); Poland vs Italy (4 p.m.); India vs France (8 p.m.).
Women: Canada vs Ukraine (10 a.m.); Italy vs South Africa (12 p.m.); India vs Poland (6 p.m.).