Trailing India look to find way forward

Junior Hockey World CupThere will be added anxiety for India in the do-or-die game against Korea on Tuesday (IE Photo Amit Mehra)

Gurjinder Singh's almighty roar could not be drowned by the noise that a small but boisterous gathering made at the National Stadium in the capital on Saturday evening. It was an unmistakable cry of triumph, but in it there was an element of release as well.

Seconds ago, in the 69th minute, the dragflicker had converted a penalty corner to give India a 3-2 lead against Canada. Gurjinder's celebration was triumphant as he knew that with only one minute left on the clock, it was in all likelihood a winner — and which player doesn't want to score those in world cups? People don't often remember who scored the first goal. What they don't easily forget is who netted the last.

But the burly six-footer from Gurdaspur, it seemed, was relieved too at having put the home team in the lead for the first time in the tournament.

For a side brimming with talent and who were pre-tournament favourites, this is an alarming piece of statistics. Two of their three Pool A round-robin matches are over and India haven't led in them for 99 percent of the time. And they have trailed for close to 80 percent of it. As a result, the India Under-21 team stand a draw or worse away from crashing out of medal contention.

It's not that Manpreet Singh and Co haven't played well. In fact, even while trying to catch-up against the Netherlands and Canada, India looked the better team for a bigger part of those 140 minutes on the field. Marginally so against the Dutch, perhaps, but far superior against the Canadians.

But it has been their intermittent lapses of concentration that have come to haunt them. At the start of both their matches, they were sluggish at the back. And they were made to pay on both occasions.

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