Needing nothing short of a win in their last round robin match to reach the final, India will leave no stone unturned as they meet hosts Malaysia in the Azlan Shah hockey tournament here on Saturday.
A victory against Malaysia is essential for India as that will take them to the title clash against Argentina. But if the match ends in a draw, it will help Pakistan reach the final on the basis of a better goal difference.
India must be brimming with confidence after having defeated three Beijing-bound teams in a row, but they have to focus hard on containing the fast-moving Malaysians if they want to win the crucial game.
“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,” Indian coach A K Bansal said. “We have defeated three Beijing bound teams (Canada, Belgium and Pakistan). Theirs (Malaysia) is a senior team playing at home. But my boys have tasted success, they won't let go the opportunity easily,” he said. Bansal feels the Malaysians were good at penalty corner conversion and India must tighten their short corner defence to ward off that danger.
Malaysia have been tough opponents for India over the years.
But this time, 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.
He expressed happiness that all the 18 players in the team were 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 wondered.