Australia humiliates Germany in a lop-sided contest

S. Thyagarajan

ROTTERDAM: Competitive sport thrives not merely on competence and class but on the element of confidence as well.

This may be a truism, but that needs to projected in the context of the contests shaping up in the crucial part of the Junior hockey World Cup now in progress in sylvan settings of the Rotterdam Hockey Club.

Even as the trend is getting curiouser and curiouser after each encounter, Tuesday's struggle by Pakistan, champion in the inaugural year in 1979 at Versailles, was heart-rending. That the team managed a 1-1 draw against Argentina was in itself a lucky verdict. The tragic fact is that Pakistan tumbled out of the reckoning consequent to this outcome.

Contrast this with the 7-1 victory of Australia against the four-time champion Germany. The Aussies simply overwhelmed the Germans, to ensure a spot in the semifinals from Pool F. The outcome against Argentina will be irrelevant to the Aussies. But for the former a win will be helpful, depending on the outcome of the contest between Germany and Belgium.

Sullen mood

The mood in the Pakistani camp was predictably sullen and melancholic. It is not difficult to imagine what might have been the intensity of anguish for some of the stalwarts witnessing the match; that included the former captain and World Cup winner, Akhtar Rasool.

Put in perspective Pakistan did precious little compared to its opponent. Not that Argentina was outstanding. It flunked a penalty stroke and converted a solitary penalty corner from the 11 it forked out.

But the South American squad displayed a noticeable measure of verve, especially in the mid-field. On the contrary, Pakistan demonstrated no trace of fervour, flair and fluency, the essentials that made its hockey a class apart from the rest.

Brig. Mussarathullah Khan, Secretary-General, Pakistan Hockey Federation, attributed the failure to the wrong-time peaking. Eleven juniors figured in the recent Azlan Shah tournament where Pakistan maintained an excellent victory sequence before falling to the home team and out of the title fight. Even if one is inclined to agree with this reasoning, there is a lot more that would be called for explanation.

Inconsistent defence

That as many as eleven penalty corners surfaced for Argentina is proof of the inconsistent defence. Pakistan forced only four, two in each half.

But the frontline was no where in the picture despite the presence of Shakeel Abbasi and Adnan Zakir. Neither Imran Warsi nor Imran Khan was accurate. Twice Imran's withering shots hit the post and spun back. It was left to Khalid to slot the lead late in the second half. And this was neutralised by Lucas Vila within minutes.

With four points and a match against Malaysia, Pakistan is out of the semifinal slot. A reverse against Malaysia may well put Pakistan figuring in the 9-12 classification.

Australia's dominance was absolute in both the sessions, and it is difficult to recall any other defeat of Germany by such a huge margin in this competition. In every layer the team showed the assurance and adeptness, which makes the squad a clear favourite for the title which it won last in 1997 at Milton Keynes.

Three goals by penalty corner striker Zulkifli highlighted Malaysia's 4-2 win over Belgium in pool F.

The results: (14-16): Chile 5 (Alfriedo Theirman 2, Diego Villaseca, Alexis Berczely, Fernando Fernandez) bt Mexico 0; South Africa 5 (Wayne Madsen, Philips Leroy, Marvin Harper, Andrew Cronje, Pierre-Gerard) bt Poland 1 (Artur Semonowicz). Argentina 1 (Lucas Vila) drew with Pakistan 1 (Khalid Muhammad); Australia 7 (Daniel Hotchkins, Edward Ocklander 2, Colin Hennessey 2, Tom Gleghorn, Desmond Abbot) bt Germany 1 (Tim Witthaus); Malaysia 4 (Zulkifli 3, Kevinder Singh) bt Belgium 2 (Jerome Tryuns, Maurice Dubois).

Wednesday's matches: Poland vs Mexico (3-30 p.m. IST); Argentina vs Australia (4 p.m.); South Africa vs Chile (6 p.m.); Pakistan vs Malaysia (6-30 p.m.); Spain vs Egypt (8-30 p.m.); India vs England (9 p.m.); Germany vs Belgium (11 p.m.); Korea vs Netherlands (11-30 p.m.).

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