Future of English hockey is bright, says coach Lee


New Delhi: England head coach Jason Lee feels the fourth-place finish in the Hockey World Cup here, their second best result in the quadrennial event, should augur well for the country’s hockey.

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“I think we are a quality team now. We are optimistic about the team’s future,” Lee said after his boys lost 3-4 to the Netherlands in a thrilling play-off for third place.

England’s best came in the 1986, when they were the losing finalists.

Leading 3-1 till the 47th minute, England conceded three goals in the next 21 minutes to see their hopes of a medal end in despair. “We had a brilliant first half. But they (the Dutch) played a very good second half and put us under pressure.”

Lee praised the Dutch captain Teun de Nooijer for his sparkling display, especially in the later session. “He was the key player. It was very difficult to control him. Towards the end he titled the balance.”

Lee said missing a medal by a whisker has pained his boys. “They are hurt. They should feel the pain. When we won four back-to-back matches they had the feeling of victory. Now we have lost the last three games and now they know how it feels to lose.”

England, who upset favourites Australia in the tournament opener, got the better of Pakistan, India and South africa before going down to Spain in their last Pool A game on their way the semi-finals as the second team from Pool B. In the semis they lost to Germany.

Lee said his team missed three key players owing to injury and that affected the side’s prospects in penalty-corners. “Our penalty-corner specialist Richard Mantell is a world class player and any team will be handicapped losing somebody like him.

Mantell’s World Cup campaign ended when he dislocated his ankle in the Pool B outing against Pakistan. Earlier, Mantell’s brother Richard and Matt Dalley — both strikers — had to withdraw from the squad because of injuries.