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Ansari inaugurates Biju Patnaik rural hockey meet

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Hamid Ansari

Rourkela (Odisha), Dec 10: Vice-President Hamid Ansari on Saturday inaugurated the Biju Patnaik Rural Hockey Tournament which will see over 1400 teams from Odisha,Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh competing for the title from December 16 to March 17.

Inaugurating the event, organised by former national team captain and tribal sports icon Dilip Tirkey at the SAIL Hockey Stadium, Ansari said hockey is the soul, air and water in these regions.

He also said that hockey will get a further boost through this tournament which will be competing  among the teams coming from the villages.

“Hockey is a popular sport in this region and this tournament will help Odisha continue to produce top sportspersons in the future,” Ansari said in his speech.

The tournament will take place at 32 venues. Dilip said that a total of 1,458 teams have confirmed their participation. There is no age bar for participants.

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, Odisha Sports Minister Sudam Marandi and Union Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram were also present during the event.

Former Olympians Michael Kindo, Ashok Kumar, A.B. Subbaiah and Ignace Tirkey were also present, alongside current India defender Birendra Lakra.

Dilip said that the aim is not only to encourage rural youth towards hockey but also to inspire youth living in and around Maoist-infested areas to pick up the hockey stick and drop the gun.

The region where the matches would be played is part of the belt with a strong Maoist presence.

Dilip, India’s record cap holder, asserted that the region has a long history of producing great players — 1928 Olympic-winning team Jaipal Singh Munda, Kindo, Lazaraus Barla, Prabodh and Ignace Tirkey and current star Birendra Lakra.

He also named several women players — former national team captains Jyoti Sunita Kulu and Shubhadra Pradhan among others as the pride of the region.

“Since ages, tribal people are attached to hockey. We have a long legacy of hockey. However, due to many social problems and the Red Corridor issues, we have seen the diminishing craze of hockey over the past few years,” the 39-year-old Rajya Sabha member told reporters.

“So through this tournament, we want to again create the right tournament for the sport. The youth need to continue the hockey legacy of this region and we are trying to help them dream of a better life.”

Subbaiah and Ashok Kumar thanked Dilip for creating a platform for the budding talents of the region.

IANS

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FIFA World Cup 2018: Tony Kroos fives Germany win over Sweden

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Sochi, June 24 : Tony Kroos produced a last gasp winner as Germany revived their campaign with a 2-1 win over Sweden in a Group F match of the FIFA World Cup here.

Ola Toivonen gave Sweden the lead with a superb finish in the 32nd minute during the match on Saturday.

Germany displayed large doses of their famed fighting spirit as they staged a strong comeback in the second half.

Marco Reus (48th minute) got the equaliser early in the second half.

Germany left everything to the last minute, scoring in the 95th minute, avoiding what could have been an embarrassing elimination from the World Cup in the group stage.

The Germans felt disaster coming when Ola Toinoven scored the first goal in the 32nd minute, giving Sweden a 1-0 lead by half time, Efe news reports.

To Germany’s relief, Marco Reus scored three minutes into the second half off a cross from the left by Timo Werner, giving his teammates the jolt of energy and confidence they needed.

Germany soon took control of the match, achieving nearly 80 per cent possession of the ball and finding several clear chances to score, although the Swedish defence held the line.

Even though Jerome Boateng received a red card in the 83rd minute, the Germans continued to play as one would expect from the former World Cup champions.

In the 89th minute, Germany’s Mario Gomez was close to scoring with a superb header that was deflected by keeper Robin Olsen.

It wasn’t until the 95th minute that Germany sealed their 2-1 victory with a free kick by Toni Kroos from the left of the box, beautifully curling the ball into the far corner of the net.

The rest of the game saw the Germans dominate as they created and wasted a hatful of chances.

The Swedish defence also did well, holding the defending champions at bay with some last ditch defending.

Kroos finally found the winner five minutes into second half added time when he curled in a free-kick at the far post.

Sweden and Germany are now tied in Group F with three points each, while Mexico is in first place with six points and South Korea is last with zero point.

Germany have three points from two matches and will face South Korea in their final group engagement.

Sweden, who had beaten the Koreans in their first match, remained on three points as well.

They will take on Mexico in their third and final group match.

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World Cup 2018: Germany face must-win against Sweden

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sweden fifa 2018

Sochi, June 23: Holders Germany will have to beat Sweden in order to avoid an early exit from the FIFA World Cup when the two sides meet in a crunch Group F clash at the Fisht Stadium here on Saturday.

Blessed with a strong squad brimming with talented players, Germany were hot contenders to become the first team in 56 years to retain the World Cup.

But after a shock 0-1 defeat to Mexico, the jolted four-time winners will have their task cut out against Sweden. A reversal will all but end their campaign.

“Everyone is aware that this is our first ‘final’, it’s annoying that it comes so early, but it’s self-inflicted,” team director Oliver Bierhoff was quoted as saying.

Germany were all over the place in the first half against Mexico and their heroics in Brazil four years ago seemed distant.

After the defeat, there have been catcalls to drop under-performing players like Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira.

Sweden, meanwhile, will believe they can cause another upset after their confidence lifting 1-0 win over Korea Republic. This was their first win in the competition since hosting the tournament in 1958.

The Swedes are no strangers to upsetting the odds, beating France during qualification and getting past Italy in the play-offs, so an under-performing German side will hold no fears for Janne Anderson’s men.

IANS

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FIFA WC 2018: Confident Mexico up against under-pressure Koreans

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Mexico FIFA 2018

Rostov-on-Don (Russia), June 23: A confident Mexico will be eyeing their second win to seal a pre-quarterfinal berth when they take on South Korea in a Group F match of the 2018 FIFA World Cup at the Rostov Arena here on Saturday.

The South Americans were impressive during their 1-0 win over defending champions Germany in their campaign opener where they put on one of the best team performances.

Meanwhile, the Asian side will be under pressure after going down 0-1 to Sweden on Monday and are facing the prospect of being eliminated at the group stage in a second consecutive World Cup.

Korea head coach Shin Tae-yong will certainly be wanting something special from his side to keep themselves alive in the mega event.

The Koreans played well in their first match, but found the going tough against the tall, physically strong Swedes.

While the Koreans did well in the midfield, the well-organised Sweden defence coupled with the Europeans’ physical advantage proved too much for them.

While most of the Mexican players do not have too much of a physical presence, their superior skills and tactical ability will present a different sort of challenge for the Koreans.

Mexico head coach Juan Carlos Osorio will be hoping for a repeat show from his side and despite being known for reshuffling his lineup, he is not expected to make much changes against the Koreans.

Hirving Lozano, star for Mexico against Germany, scored the only game of the match and will be eager to go against South Korea to find the back of the net again.

However, despite having a great start to their campaign and being favourites in Saturday’s clash, Mexico midfielder Marco Fabian believes his side has to still do a lot.

“We reached our first target and have beaten Germany, but we can’t sit back,” Fabian told the media.

“Some consider us to be group favourites now, and that’s a compliment – but it’s one we shouldn’t believe. There are no favourites in this World Cup,” he added.

On the other hand, Koreans after suffering a defeat by Sweden, would have to reconsider their 4-3-3 formation which handed space to their opponents in the first game.

South Korea midfielder Koo Ja-cheol said his teammates were preparing to tackle Mexico and had found striker Javier Hernandezas as one of the major threat.

“Of course we are not ready to give up. Everyone put in so much effort to get here,” Koo said.

“What we want is to turn fans’ disappointment into joy,” he added.

Overall, it will be a herculean task for the Asian outfit to pull off a victory against the Mexicans on Saturday.

IANS

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