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We committed unforgivable mistakes

By Dhanraj Pillay
August 16, 2004 21:27 IST
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Sunday was the Independence Day and all of us badly wanted to win our Olympic opener as a gift to our motherland. The reality, however, is that a combination of defensive lapses and poor finishing by the forwards forced us to go down to holders Holland 1-3.

We have to now pick up the pieces and raise our game to the desired level to try and bag life-saving three points against South Africa on Tuesday.

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Let me make one thing clear to my readers: I personally feel that there was not much difference between the two teams as far as strategy and skills were concerned. But it was sad and unfortunate that we conceded 'soft goals'. It could have been easily avoided. Being down by a goal by the second minute just goes to show how unsettled and nervous we were at the start. Perhaps some of our youngsters, who played their first Olympic tie on Sunday, were a bit overawed by the situation. Under such circumstances mistakes were bound to happen.

But, then, why blame the young boys only? Even the senior players like us were unable to convert the chances that came our way. We did create chances and showed some individual brilliance, but it was teamwork and finishing that left much to be desired.

I would not accept that Holland were far superior to us, but I must give them credit for converting the half chances into goals. And that's what matters most in big events. It all boils down to who commits the least mistakes and converts the most chances. We failed miserably in both departments.

Looking back at the game, I cannot help saying that mistakes we committed were simply unforgivable. We practically played into their hands and gave away three points on a platter. Such acts not only break the rhythm and momentum of the team but also turn the fighting spirit into frustration, despair and anger. Let us hope that we learn from these mistakes and such things do not happen again in the rest of the encounters.

It will not be right if I do not point out some positive points of our side in Sunday's tie. Adrian D'Souza, who played his first Olympic match, had a great game under the bar and played like a seasoned goalkeeper. Our midfielders controlled the game much better in the second half and were zestful in assisting the forwardline. Although in the first half we played in patches and were unable to get going, we could dish out much more disciplined hockey in the second session. We were able to play through the flanks and then attack through the centre. All our efforts came to a nought as time and again we failed to convert the chances.

We are now left with no other option but to pull up our socks and rise to the occasion with more purpose and vigour. All is not lost yet and we have four more games to play. If the players can put this defeat behind them and concentrate on winning the other games, then we would still be left with a fighting chance to make the semi-finals.

I am sure there will be many more upsets in this pool as a wounded Argentina will try their best to come back into contention. There will be thrilling encounters till the end before the two semi-finalists emerge from our group.

Personally, I am not the one who throws in the towel too easily. We will fight it out till the last match and not take it lying down. I am taking this defeat as a blessing in disguise for better things to come. With this prayer and hope, I appeal to you all to stay with us and support 'Your Team' in the rest of the outings.

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Dhanraj Pillay