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Former players were united in blaming selection controversies and poor attitude of the players for India’s worst-ever men’s hockey performance at the Asian Games.The former champions did not qualify for the semi-finals in the Qatari capital on Sunday, the first time that they have failed to win a medal in Games history.
A shock 3-2 defeat to China last week meant they had to beat South Korea on Sunday to stay in contention, but a 1-1 draw left them competing for minor placings.
“It’s very upsetting,” Olympian Mervyn Fernandis told Reuters on Monday.
“After the debacle at the World Cup (in September) I expected the team to at least come back hard at the Asian Games,” the forward added.
“Watching the matches, I felt the team lacked understanding, the attacks weren’t cohesive and as a result we have let go of an opportunity to qualify directly for the next Olympics,” said Fernandis, who coaches premier domestic outfit Indian Airlines.
The top-two finishers in Doha gain a direct entry to the 2008 Beijing Games and the eight-time Olympic champions will now have to progress through qualifying tournaments.
Not a very comforting proposition though, considering that they finished 11th among 12 teams in the recent World Cup in Germany.
The team’s departure was mired in controversy when ace centre-half Viren Rasquinha was inexplicably dropped from the squad.
“I felt the composition of the team was not quite right,” Olympian Joaquim Carvalho told Reuters.
“Many of the selected players, in my opinion, were undeserving and that left the team imbalanced,” said Carvalho, who currently coaches Indian Oil Corporation.
Indian hockey has been on a steady decline since the 1970s and 80s.
Their last success globally came at the Moscow Olympics in 1980, where the U.S.-led boycott meant of the 11 teams that competed in Montreal in 1976 only India and Spain were present.
India’s last significant title was at the 1998 Asian Games.
“Dribbacle in Doha,” lamented the lead headline in Mumbai broadsheet DNA, while national daily Hindustan Times blared: ”Another humiliating low.”
“It is sad to see India not among the top four on a stage they used to dominate,” Carvalho said.  

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