Abject India finish 10th in Junior World Cup

HockeyIndian player Surender Kumar trying to clear the ball during their Junior Hockey world cup (Men) 2013 match against Pakistan at National Stadium in New Delhi on Saturday. PTI

Before the start of the India vs Pakistan Junior World Cup match for the 9th place at the National Stadium, as the home team's national anthem was being played, a curious thing happened. Midway through 'Jana Gana Mana', at the sudden drop in tempo after '...uchhala jaladhi taranga', the music seemed to have stopped.

The 6,000-strong gathering, however, quickly improvised. Instead of mere lip movement, they started singing the rest all the way to its stirring crescendo, drowning out the instrumental version which crept back into life.

The spectators' vocal chords would get little rest throughout the next one-and-half hours, but unlike the national anthem, they wouldn't be able to carry off the national team, who looked completely unplugged in the final game of their underwhelming campaign.

It finished with a 4-2 loss on penalties to Pakistan after a 1-1 draw in regulation time. More than the loss, it was the manner in which it came that was more deflating for the fans and observers. As has been the case throughout the tournament, India conceded early, in the 6th minute. Pakistan's Umar Bhutta picked out an unmarked Mohd Dilber on the right, whose cross was calmly directed into the Indian goal by Rizwan Ali.

In their previous games, the Indians had fought back with positive, attacking hockey; on Saturday, they couldn't so much as string three meaningful passes together. The ball wasn't trapped and was turned over too easily. There was little coordination among the players.

However, to give credit where it is due, the Pakistani defence was resolute and didn't allow too many circle penetrations. In fact, it was the back line that made the difference between these two equally error-prone teams.

It was in the 34th minute of the match that the first real attempt from the Indian team came. Manpreet Singh stole the ball near the 75-yard line and after a quick one-two with Mandeep Singh, had a shy at the goalpost. However, his hit went inches wide. This was the closest the hosts would come to scoring from open play in the entire match.

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