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Azlan Hockey: Final berth assured, India look to test attacking prowess

Source: PTI
Last updated on: March 28, 2019 18:53 IST
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India look to test attacking prowess against lowly Poland in Azlan Shah Cup

Mandeep Singh celebrates

IMAGE: Mandeep Singh, right, celebrates after scoring. Photograph: Hockey India/Twitter

Their final berth already sealed, favourites India will look to test their attacking prowess and aim for a big win when they take on lower-ranked Poland in their final league match of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament, in Ipoh, Malaysia, on Friday.

With three wins and a draw, India currently lead the six-team league table with 10 points and a goal difference of eight. 


Just like five-time champions India, Korea too have secured their place in Saturday's summit clash with 10 points, but have an inferior goal difference -- five -- than the Indians.

The last round league matches, thus, have become inconsequential for all the teams, but both India and Korea would look to keep their winning momentum intact.

Against Poland, ranked 21st in the world, it should be an easy match for world number 5 India.

The Indians had a pretty good outing in the tournament so far, barring one match -- against Saturday's summit clash opponents Korea.

India defeated Asian Games gold medallists Japan 2-0 before getting the better of hosts Malaysia 4-2 and Canada 7-3. The only blip for the Manpreet Singh-led side was the 1-1 draw against Korea.

Come Friday, the Indians will be looking to test their attacking combinations ahead of the big final against Korea.

Mandeep Singh has been a live wire upfront, scoring a hat-trick against Canada, but he needs more support from other strikers and that is precisely what the Indian think-tank would be hoping to achieve against Poland.

Besides Mandeep, Varun Kumar was impressive with penalty-corner conversions and would like to continue in the same vein in the remainder of the matches.

"We are not going to take it lightly against Poland. We are determined to keep performing to the best of our abilities, and to win our remaining two matches based on good performances," Mandeep said.

"I feel tomorrow's match against Poland will also give us a chance to prepare well for the final against Korea," said the 24-year-old striker.

After a slow start, the Indians showed progress in every match of the tournament with improved structure and discipline. 

Poland, on the other hand, are still win-less in the tournament and would at least look for a consolation point.

But it will be a herculean task to achieve that against a world-class side like India.

Poland were hammered 1-5 by Malaysia, 0-4 by Canada and 0-3 by Japan. Korea is the only team which had to fight tooth and nail to get the better of Poland 3-2.

With five titles under their belt, India are the second-most successful team in the Azlan Shah Cup, behind Australia (10).

India's last triumph in the tournament was way back in 2010 when they shared the title with Korea after the match was abandoned due to rain.

Despite coming to Ipoh with a mix of senior and junior players, India will be hoping to end the eight-year title jinx.

Ex-striker Shivendra Singh to be appointed assistant coach of Indian men's hockey team

Shivendra Singh

Former India centre-forward Shivendra Singh is set to be appointed assistant coach of the national men's hockey team and will start working with the side next month.

A livewire during his playing days, Shivendra will exclusively work with the strikers and form an integral part of the Indian coaching staff, set to be headed by Australian Graham Reid.

Reid's appointment is just a formality now after Hockey India and the Sports Authority of India recommended his name to the Sports Ministry earlier this week.

Besides Shivendra, former Australia drag-flicker Chris Ciriello, who is the current analytical coach, will be the other assistant coach in the new set-up.

"Shivendra Singh will join the Indian team soon as an assistant coach. He will work with the forwards under the new chief coach," a source close to the development said.

Shivendra was part of the Indian team that won a silver medal in the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games, besides being a member of the bronze medal-winning side of 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games.

He also won a gold with the Indian team in 2007 Asia Cup and 2010 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.

The coaching set-up will also have SAI coach Piyush Kumar Dubey, who is already with the team at the ongoing Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh, Malaysia. He will exclusively work with the goalkeepers.

Meanwhile, the source also said that Reid was selected after he committed himself to Indian hockey and agreed to relocate to India with his family.

"The new coach has committed to India. He will be shifting base to India with his family and will be based in Bengaluru," the source said.

He also said the new chief coach's tenure will be till 2020, extendable till 2022 World Cup depending upon his performance.

"The chief coach's tenure will be till the end of next year. As per world hockey standards every international coach's contract is supposed to be for an Olympic cycle."

"But his contract will have a provision of extension till 2022. Everything will depend on India's performances leading up to the Tokyo Olympics," the official said.

The Indian chief coach's position has been lying vacant after the unceremonious sacking of Harendra Singh in January following a less-than-impressive quarter-final exit at the World Cup in Bhubaneswar last year.

Incidentally, Reid, a former Australia coach, is currently the assistant coach of the Netherlands hockey team.

Besides the Netherlands job, Reid was also the coach of his former club Amsterdam since 2017, a position from which he was dismissed earlier this month.

As soon as that development took place, speculation started that he is interested in taking up the India job, a claim which he neither rejected nor accepted.

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