Hockey: India aim to avert bottom finish in Olympic campaign

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Their reputation in tatters, Indian hockey team would look to salvage at least one victory from their disastrous Olympic Games campaign that has pushed them into a playoff to avert the bottom place finish in the 12-team competition.

India will take on South Africa on Saturday in the playoff to decide the 11th and 12th sports, a match-up similar to that of the 2006 World Cup in Monchengladbach, where India managed to put it across the Southern African rivals to finish 11th.

The Indian team's mental fragility has been exposed during their five league matches that left the jittery and fumbling Indians struggling against opponents, who were determined to leave their mark in the Olympic competition.

India, making a return to the Olympic arena after failing to qualify for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, struggled to find their feet and the players did not show any determination to be combative against opponents who had superior physique and used it effectively to dispossess the Indians.

"We have struggled throughout the tournament. The players are aware that they have not given a good performance of their skills," coach Michael Nobbs said.

"We've occasionally got the basics right and managed to get into the circle, but the finishing has been poor. At the other end, we've continued to concede soft goals," he said.

Nobbs says the Indian team faltered badly where it mattered most.

"Performing at the other events ahead of the Olympics does not matter. This is what was the big stage where we should have played better," Nobbs said.

Only South Africa have conceded more goals than India in their respective preliminary league matches on these Olympics.

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