India played their first match of the tournament against the mighty Germany team and it was one of the worst starts that the team could have in a match. The German team was continuously attacking on the Indian defence and they scored 3 goals within just 20 minutes in the match. Dhanraj Pillay was playing with his injury in the match and as a result, was not at his best. He again and again failed to make his trademark quick runs through the opponents' defence and his off-the-ball running was also missing in this match. With the captain in such a state, the other Indian players were also finding it quite difficult to prevent the Germans from breaking their defence again and again. The German team put on some more pressure on the Indians at the ending part of the first half and they scored their fourth goal, just 5 minutes before the break. The scenario remained same in the second half of the match also; however, India became successful to score only one goal through Sabu Varkey's stick.
After being crashed by the German side by 1-4, the Indian team met with another powerful team of the world, Holland. It was the second pool match for India in the World Cup, Utrecht, 1998 and Dhanraj Pillay captained India in this match also. The Indians started the match on a quick and positive mode and they were making some very good moves through the Dutch defence. The Indian strikers like Mukesh Kumar, Sameer Dad and Sabu Varkey ran through the Dutch defence for several times, however, none of the efforts could be materialised. However, the Holland team came back in the match thanks to the failure of the Indians in capitalising the opportunities and the Dutch players started to attack on the Indian defence. Dhanraj Pillay was having some fitness problems in this match as his speedy runs were missing in this match, as well. As the Holland team regained its strength and rhythm perfectly and the Indians failed to restrict them, the Holland team eventually thrashed India by a huge margin of 5-0.
India then played against South Korea in the third match of the World Cup, Utrecht, 1998 and the team was quite confident of showing a good performance in this match. The captain, Dhanraj Pillay was also quite determined of turning the tide on the team's favour. However, when the match started, the Indians seemed to be struggling for the form once again and the South Korean team took a 2-0 lead within the first 10 minutes in the match. The Indian team came back in the match by scoring 2 goals in a row through the sticks of Rajesh Chauhan and Sabu Varkey. Dhanraj Pillay was trying his best to get out of his fitness problems in the match and he was also doing well to encourage his teammates to attack on the Korean defence. He was also sending some wonderful defence-piercing passes to the strikers. As a result of one such pass, the young Indian striker, Sameer Dad scored the third goal for India and provided his team a 3-2 lead.
The match became quite tensed in the ending part, as the South Korean players scored the equaliser just about 10 minutes, before the end of the match. The most worried event for India in the match occurred just seconds before the end of match, when South Korea scored their fourth goal from a penalty corner. The Koreans got the penalty corner in spite of the hooter was already blown and they utilised it to the full to clinch a victory of 4-3 against the Indians.
After facing 3 defeats in their first 3 pool matches, the Indian team played against the New Zealand team in their fourth pool match. Dhanraj Pillay became successful to encourage his players to show a good performance in this match and also to make a wonderful come back in the tournament. All the Indian players played with positive energy and determination in the match and they successfully beat the New Zealand team by 1-0 in the match. Dhanraj played well in the match and he was accelerating the Indian attacks from a bit behind the strikers. India then played against Canada in their next match and Dhanraj Pillay was looking to be in form in this match. He was making some of his trademark defence-piercing runs in the match and also opened up some wonderful chances for scoring goals. India scored its first goal in the 23rd minute of the match, through Rajesh Chauhan's stick, though Canada equalised the scores within a few minutes.
In the second half of the match, the Indian team started on a more positive mode and the duo of Dhanraj Pillay and Mukesh Kumar was looking dangerous once again. They were combining with each other quite well. However, Canada got a lead just within 2 minutes in the second half and scored their second goal. The goal created a lot of pressure on the Indian defence and Canada capitalised on the pressure to score another goal. Canada was leading by 3-1 at that moment and they increased the lead to 4-1, within a few minutes. Indian failed to come back in the match and as Dhanraj Pillay also failed to make further fruitful moves for his team, India lost the match 4-1 to bow out of the World Cup, Utrecht, 1998. However, India did well to win its last pool match in the tournament against Poland.
India won the match against Poland by a good margin of 6-2, where Dhanraj Pillay played nearly to his best form. He played quite well in the match and it appeared that he in his usual rhythm, as he scored 2 goals in the match. As the other Indian striker, Mukesh Kumar also accompanies Dhanraj well; India clinched the big victory of 6-2 against Poland. India then played against New Zealand in the 9th/10th match and the team beat New Zealand by 1-0 for the second time in the World Cup. India scored the only goal in the match through the stick of Mohammed Riaz from a penalty-stroke. The World Cup, Utrecht, 1998 is considered to be one of the worst tournaments for Dhanraj Pillay in his entire career and he would definitely not want to remember it for long.
(Last Updated on : 17-07-2013)
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