Sunday, August 24, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

India, Pak clash for bronze today

Amstelveen, August 23
Australia’s smashing 8-3 win over Pan-American champions Argentina at the 25th Champions Trophy hockey tournament here today has paved the way for yet another India-Pakistan encounter in the bronze medal playoff tomorrow.

Yesterday, India thrashed Pakistan 7-4 to destroy their hopes of entering the final and now the Aussies have done a huge favour to the organisers and millions of fans of the sub-continental style for yet another surging encounter between the two arch-rivals.

The organisers, who had sold out tickets for yesterday’s encounter, now have opened more booths at the entry points. And even police presence that had been restricted to a handful of them will be increased to at least 45-50 as after the match yesterday there were some, if few, ugly scenes between the fans of both India and Pakistan.

However, even before India could sit down and chalk out a plan for the bronze-medal match, the team received a setback with two key players Baljit Singh Saini and Ignace Tirkey on the injury list for tomorrow.

Indian goalkeeping coach, A B Subbiah admitted that though the team was prepared for the play-off with Pakistan, the midfield was weak as the key players Saini and Ignace may not play.

“Baljit Saini got a hit on his nose and we think it could be a fracture and Ignace who was stretchered out has a nasty hit on his knee,” Subbiah told UNI.

“If both the players sit out, then we could be a little weak in the midfield,” he added.

It also means that the defence would be stretched as Jugraj Singh, who had a great match against Pakistan, would be moving up to fill in the gaps leading to spaces created in the Indian defence that could give players of the class of Mohammed Nadeem, Rehan Butt, Kashif Jawad a lot of space to flick and power in shots at the Indian goal.

But Subbiah was confident about Indian goalkeeper Devesh Chauhan who has had a great tournament. Both the teams have been sapped by the match yesterday, more emotionally than physically.

Matches between India-Pakistan normally takes a lot out of the teams and it wouldn’t be far off the mark that yet another encounter within two days will probably not reach to those heights that yesterday’s encounter was. Of course, there have been exemptions and in the last Champions Trophy at Cologne, India beat Pakistan 3-2 in the pool match and then in the bronze-medal play-off lost 4-3 after leading 3-1.

Pakistan’s hero of that match was Rehan Butt who scored two sparkling goals in the last five minutes to give his team a wonderful victory.

Indian captain Dhanraj Pillay said that both the teams were tired but an India-Pakistan encounter “is a matter of pride and self-respect and that he along with his entire team will go out and win this match too.”

Australia have entered the Champions Trophy final 15 times out of the 25 times that they have played in the tournament, a brilliant record and they have won the tournament seven times.

Holland, on the other hand, have entered the final nine times, winning six times. With both the teams in form and their forward line firing, it should be one of the most exciting Champions Trophy final in recent times. — UNI

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