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Hockey: India a win away from final
May 16, 2008 17:36 IST
Needing nothing short of a victory in their last round-robin match to reach the final, India will leave no stone unturned when they meet hosts Malaysia on Saturday in the Azlan Shah hockey tournament in Ipoh, Malaysia.
Victory over Malaysia is essential for India as it will earn them a title clash against Argentina. But if the match ends in a draw, Pakistan will enter the final because of better goal difference.
The Indians are brimming with confidence after defeating three Beijing [Images] Olympics-bound teams in a row, but they will have to focus on containing the fast-moving Malaysians to snatch full points.
"The Malaysians are faster on their feet and quicker in movements. They rely on speed. Our prospects therefore would depend on who would control the tempo of the game," India's coach A K Bansal said.
"We have defeated three Beijing-bound teams (Canada [Images], Belgium and Pakistan). Theirs (Malaysia) is a senior team playing at home. But [now that] my boys have tasted success, they won't let go the opportunity easily," he said.
Bansal feels the Malaysians are good at penalty-corner conversions and India must tighten their defence to ward off that danger.
Malaysia have been tough opponents for India over the years. Last year, in the same tournament, India lost 0-1 to them in the semi-finals and missed the title match. This time though the hosts are languishing at the bottom of the table after badly losing their last three matches.
"This is an important match for us. I feel the Malaysians at home are very dangerous. In the existing situation, I feel we face the toughest challenge and we cannot afford to commit any mistake," Bansal said.
The Indian coach expressed happiness that all his 18 players are fit.
"Left-half Ranjeet Singh and striker Gurwinder Singh Chandi are fully fit. Now, my difficulty is to locate two players whom I can rest," he said.
Asked why V Raghunath is not being utilised, Bansal said, "How can I have three drag-flickers on the field? Both Sandeep Singh and Diwakar Ram select themselves on merit. I really face problems in making choices. All the 18 players are in good nick."
Sounding a word of caution, manager Pargat Singh said the Indian midfield should get its act together against the hosts.
"My concern is the midfield. We easily cave in and offer much leeway to the attackers due to a weak midfield. Unless the players understand this, things can go wrong against a team like Malaysia," he added.