India have their backs to the wall and no other option but beat Korea in Tuesday’s do-or-die final Pool C match to progress to the quarter-finals of the Hero Junior Men's Hockey World Cup in Delhi.
After a 2-3 defeat to the Netherlands in their tournament opener, the hosts stayed in the reckoning for a place in the knock-out stage by scoring a hard-fought 3-2 victory over Canada in their next match on Saturday at the Major Dhyan Chand Stadium.
But they cannot afford a defeat or draw against Korea in their final pool match.
Both India and Korea are on three points from two outings but the Koreans have a better goal difference and a draw will be enough for them to pip the home team and advance to the last eight stage.
With two wins in as many games, the Netherlands have already qualified for the quarter-finals from Pool C.
The Manpreet Singh-led Indian outfit has some thinking to do ahead of the crucial match, as the lesser-formidable Canadians made them toil for the 3-2 win, the winner coming in the dying stages of the match, courtesy a penalty-corner conversion by Gurjinder Singh.
Against Canada, India were by far the better side but missed chances galore and ended up making life difficult for themselves.
India's chief coach Greg Clark too admitted that his wards need to be more accurate against a dangerous opponent like Korea.
"We really got good chances in the last matches. We created fairly good chances and would like to stick with the same in future matches," he said.
"I have full confidence that the boys will do well in the next match against Korea, like they did in the last match against Canada. Statistically we did lot of right movements, like circle entry and created a lot of chances in the opposite end of the field," Clark said.
"The Koreans are a good side; they have consistently performed well in the tournament. The match will be difficult but we have confidence in ourselves. Our performance has constantly improved. But we got to be more accurate in our next encounters."
Fully aware of the task at hand, Clark said that his wards will give their best in the must-win match tomorrow.
"I have full confidence that the boys will do well in the next match against Korea like they did in the last match against Canada.
"Our experience shows that the team gets comfortable with environment as the tournament progresses and performs better with every match. We will definitely put our best show (against Korea)," he insisted.
Even though India boast of a strong forwardline in Mandeep Singh, Akashdeep Singh, Ramandeep Singh, Malak Singh and Talwinder Singh, they are yet to fire in the tournament.
Though the midfield is in the safe hands of skipper Manpreet, it is the backline which will be cause for concern for the hosts as they conceded soft goals in their first two matches against Netherlands and Canada respectively.
To add to it, the Indians are under pressure to at least repeat the podium finish its women counterparts which won the bronze at Mochengladbach, Germany, earlier this year.
Korea, on the other hand, can afford to relax a bit as they only need a draw to progress to the knock-out stage.
After thrashing Canada 7-4 in their opening match, they lost 2-3 to Netherlands in the next game.
But with a goal difference of two against India's nil, they are better placed than the hosts and need only a point to break the hearts of the home crowd.
Image: India's captain Manpreet Singh in thick of action during the match against Canada
Photograph: Hockey India