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Key players to be rested against Bangladesh
September 22, 2003 15:22 IST
With a victory over China under their belt, India will rest a few key players in their second outing in the sixth Asia Cup hockey tournament against Bangladesh on Tuesday to keep them fresh for the all-important match against Pakistan on Wednesday.
India, in Pool B alongside China, Bangladesh and Pakistan, need just a draw on Tuesday to make it to the semi-finals of the tournament.
Their main concern at the moment is to avoid meeting defending champions South Korea in the semi-finals. They will be able to do that if they top their group by winning all their league matches, assuming that Korea will top Pool A.
Bangladesh, smarting under a 8-0 drubbing at the hands of Pakistan on Sunday, look to be struggling and are expected to go down without much fight to the Indians as well.
Thus India's main challenge could come in their last league match against Pakistan, who will also leave no stone unturned to see that they do not run into the wily South Koreans before the final.
However, the Asian Games champions looked out of sorts in their opening match against hosts Malaysia, who held them to a surprise 1-1 draw.
But the Koreans are capable of bouncing back with vengeance and it would be foolhardy to judge them on the basis of just one match.
India's coach Rajinder Singh said the match against Bangladesh would be used to carry out a few experiments and settle down before their third match with Pakistan in less than a month.
"We are planning to rest a couple of key players in order to ensure they are not too exerted and remain fresh to play Pakistan," coach Rajinder Singh said on Monday.
Although India have had a better success rate against Pakistan recently, they were pipped by their arch-rivals in the bronze medal play-off in the Champions Trophy last month after trouncing them 7-4 in the league phase.
India, four-time runners-up at the Asia Cup, are desperate to win the title this time around as the triumph will not only mean a compensation of sorts for their Champions Trophy debacle but will also earn them a place in the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
Former skipper and key defender Dilip Tirkey, who scored two goals against China on Sunday, admitted the team wants "to make up for Champions Trophy" and is all geared to take the title home this time.
He said India will try to pump in as many goals as possible against Bangladesh, who are demoralised after their big defeat in the opening match.
"We will try to attack their post and score as many goals as possible. We will also try to convert penalty-corners so that our confidence is boosted before the next match against Pakistan," Tirkey said.
Bangladesh coach Abdur Razzaque Sonamia admitted his players were down after their loss to Pakistan and would try to improve their show against India.
"It is our bad luck that we are in the tougher pool. It is very difficult for us to play giants like Pakistan in the very first match and then take on another powerhouse the very next day. But the boys will try to give their best and put up a decent fight," he said.
"We will concentrate on defence so that India is not able to score many goals," said the coach, whose son Rasal Mohammad Jimmy is also in the side.
He said the team is looking forward to beating China in their last league match and is not setting any "unrealistic" goals for themselves.
"If we can beat them [China] we will be successful," he said, admitting it would be very difficult to pull off even a draw against India.
In Wednesday's other match, South Korea will lock horns with Hong Kong.