India did not have the best of starts in the elite eight-nation tournament as they slumped to 0-1 and 2-4 defeats against Olympic champions Germany and World Cup bronze-medallist Argentina respectively in their first two Pool B matches.

After losing to a late goal against the Germans in their tournament opener, India squandered the lead twice to slump to a 2-4 defeat against Argentina.

Their morale definitely took a beating after two defeats and just when they were being counted out, the Sardar Singh-led side produced an inspiring performance to shock the Netherlands 3-2 in their final league match and finish third in Pool B ahead of the mighty Germans.

After the splendid show against the Netherlands yesterday, India will definitely fancy their chances against the fourth-ranked Belgium.

But it would be easier said than done as Belgium and England looked like the teams to beat in the tournament and finished their pool engagements on an unbeaten note.

While England topped Pool A with seven points from two wins and a draw, the Red Lions finished second with five points by virtue of one win and two draws.

But knock-out rounds are a completely different ball game as one bad day in office can spoil the entire hardwork of a team and Belgium would be completely aware of the fact.

Against all expectations, Sardar Singh and Co came up with a superlative display to register their first win over the Netherlands in 18 years in front of a packed Kalinga Stadium.

The win not only ended India’s two-match losing streak, but also helped the hosts break their 18-year jinx against the mighty Dutch. India last defeated the Netherlands way back in 1996 in an Olympic qualifying tournament in Barcelona.
 
It is also India's first win over the Netherlands in the Champions Trophy after 1986 in Karachi.

The quarterfinal match would also provide India an opportunity to avenge their latest defeats against Belgium - the 2-3 loss in this year's World Cup at the Hague and the 1-2 defeat at the Hockey World League at New Delhi in January.

Unlike their first two matches, the Indians looked far more coordinated and well-orgainsed yesterday. The hosts played what they are known for - fast-paced, aggressive and attacking hockey - and come tomorrow they would like to carry on in similar fashion.

"We played aggressive and attacking hockey against the Netherlands and we want to continue our style of play in the remaining games of the tournament," India's High Performance Director Roelant Oltmans had said.

Just like the previous two matches, the Indians created chances against the Netherlands yesterday but what was heartening was that they utilised the opportunities that came their way.

"The positive is that we scored thrice against a side which conceded just one goal against Germany in the pool
stages," Oltmans said.

However, as Oltmans said there are areas to address ahead of the crucial knock-out match. "We need to rectify some mistakes. We need to stop conceding goals after scoring one," Oltmans said.

Having said that Oltmans believe India has the potential to beat Belgium and progress to the last four round.

"I don't have the belief that we can Belgium I shouldn't have been here," he quipped. But it would be easier said than done as Belgium and England are the two most in-form teams in the tournament.

Another factor which might affect or work in India's favour is the crowd support. All in all, it is expected to be a cracker of a contest and if India can held on to their nerves, the home team can come out trumps on Thursday.

Latest News from Sports News Desk