The defeat to Japan in the league phase following the draw against Pakistan came as a jolt to the make-shift Indian men’s team at the Asia Cup here as they defeated the same opponent to start their Super 4s campaign on a strong note.
Though the 3-3 draw with Malaysia has kept alive India’s hopes of reaching the title clash, as are in the second position in the Super 4s points table behind Korea, who have the same four points but a better goal difference. Malaysia have two points from two draws while Japan have lost both their matches and are out of contention for the title.
Sardar Singh’s boys have to be on their toes in the third Super 4s clash with Korea on Tuesday and win the match and secure a direct berth in the summit clash. If India lose to Korea, their fate will be in the hands of Malaysia, whose result against Japan will decide their fate.
So, the Indian team will have to take Tuesday’s clash with table-toppers Korea as a must-win clash and perform at their best at the GBK Sports Complex to remain on course for defending their title.
India had nearly clinched their berth in the title match involving the teams occupying the top two positions in the Super 4s table. Victory against Malaysia would have given India two wins in two matches and thus sealing a place in the final.
But Malaysian drag-flicker Razie Rahim scored a late goal and completed his hat-trick to draw the match. India had fought back from a two-goal deficit and had scored through Vishnukant Singh, SV Sunil, and Nilam Sanjeep Xess to take a 3-2 lead before Razie Rahim drew the match for Malaysia.
On Tuesday against Korea, the Indians have to avoid committing the mistakes they committed against Malaysia. They have to play aggressive hockey, maintain shape throughout the match and should not concede early goals.
The Koreans have been quite stingy in Super 4s and have conceded only three goals in two matches. In contrast, India have given four goals in two matches. and have scored five goals.
“The players are determined to do their best as this event is a good experience for us all. We want to do our best in this event as it will open other opportunities,” midfielder Pawan Rajbhar had told the official broadcaster after the draw with Malaysia.
Rajbhar had said that India had got going in the second half against Malaysia as coach Sardar Singh had asked the team to be more aggressive.