Hockey: India eye semis spot in Asian Champions Trophy (Preview)
Kuantan (Malaysia), Oct 24 (IANS) India’s hockey team will look to seal a semi-final spot in the Asian Champions Trophy when it takes on China in a round-robin match here on Tuesday.
Top-ranked India are second on the standings table with seven matches from three games and a win over world No.18 Chinese will guarantee a place in the semi-finals for the Roelant Oltmans-coached side.
Malaysia are on top of the table with three wins in as many matches, while Pakistan and China are third and fourth respectively.
Oltmans’ wards showed a lot of character and mettle during their 3-2 win over arch foes Pakistan. They were trailing 1-2 before Ramandeep Singh’s field goal and a powerful penalty corner conversion from Rupinder Pal Singh turned the match around for India.
After a 1-1 insipid draw against world No.11 South Korea, the win over their neighbours will give India a great degree of confidence in the coming matches of the campaign.
Against a team like China, against whom India are expected to dominate, set-piece specialist Rupinder will again be a key player. The Punjab drag-flicker has already scored seven goals — six against Japan and one against Pakistan — and will get plenty of chances again.
However, Oltmans will hope that his forwards improve their finishing skills after Talwinder Singh and Nikkin Thimmaiah messed up couple of goal-scoring opportunities.
In defence too, Rupinder will be extremely important as a central defender and the defensive duties will also be on Birendra Lakra, Surender Kumar and Kothajit Singh.
The midfield will be led by former captain Sardar Singh. The 30-year-old has been average and looked out of touch so far and the China game will give him a chance to get his fluency back.
The importance of a player like Sardar, who can dictate play from the centre of the pitch will be crucial for the team.
The focus will also be on Ramandeep Singh, who has stepped up his game in the absence of senior striker S.V. Sunil. He, along with the likes of Akashdeep, Nikkin and Lalit Upadhyay will not only have roles of scoring field goals but also earning penalty corners for the side.
China will also have enough motivation to face India as they have only one win — 2-1 triumph over Japan.