The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Key is to hold out vs Holland, says Zafar

New Delhi: The recent title triumphs may have raised expectations of India breaking the Champions Trophy jinx, but former hockey captain Zafar Iqbal said on Wednesday the team may not succeed in winning the coveted title but “looks very close to finishing second or third” in Amstelveen.

Zafar said India’s fortunes in the 25th edition of the meet beginning on Saturday would largely depend on how well they start.

Pointing out that India’s opening match against hosts Holland would be crucial, Zafar said: “We have to do really well to defend their penalty corners. It has been their main weapon for the last three decades with specialists like Ties Cruze, Paul Litjen and Floris Bovelander. If we don’t lose to them, it will boost our confidence.”

Zafar said the present Indian squad looks a matured outfit. “We have a better chance as the team looks more mature. Individually and as a team the confidence is high and finally it looks like we can turn the tables,” he said.

Zafar said after failing to deliver in the Sydney Olympics, players like Gagan Ajit Singh and Deepak Thakur have learnt how to score goals in international meets.

“Thakur and Gagan Ajit have now gained in experience and are scoring goals,” he said. “The team has got enough exposure. They just cannot decline from here.”

Zafar feels Pillay should continue till the Athens Olympics. (PTI)

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