A spirited India defeated South Africa 4-1 in their final practice game to round off their warm-up campaign ahead of the hockey World Cup on a positive note here. India had earlier lost 1-2 to Argentina in the first practice game.
Hit hard by injuries to two key strikers — Ramandeep Singh and Nikkin Thimmaiah — the Indians played the game against South Africa with a maturity head and sense of purpose.
India’s three goals came from penalty corner conversion by Rupinderpal Singh (2) and V R Raghunath, while captain Sardar Singh also contributed to the scoreline with a field goal.
India dominated proceedings for most part of the match and took the lead at the closing stages of the first half through a penalty corner conversion by Rupinder.
Rupinder registered his name in the scoresheet again when he successfully converted another penalty corner in the second half to double India’s lead.
The South Africans did manage to pull one back from a set piece but the Indian defence stood tall thereafter to thwart any danger to their citadel.
Skipper Sardar made the scoreline 3-1 in favour of India with a field strike before Raghunath completed the formalities with a penalty corner conversion.
‘Semifinal finish will be big’
Fully aware about the Herculean task that awaits the Indian men’s hockey team in the upcoming World Cup, former captain Pargat Singh Thursday said a semifinal finish in the mega-event would be a big achievement for the past masters of the game.
“Going by the team’s performance since last year till date, if we reach the semifinals that will be a big achievement. It will be a credit to the team,” Pargat said.
The hockey World Cup will be played at The Hague, Netherlands from May 31 to June 15. Eight-time Olympic champions India will open their campaign against Belgium on Saturday.
“We are already eighth in the world ranking. And adding to this injuries (to Ramandeep and Nikkin) have come at this hour. We will need to put up a really good show to compete with the top teams,” Pargat added.