India seek to write own script
Confident hosts will look for win over Canada to earn direct QF ticket without depending on other match’s result
Mumbai: The Indian hockey team will seek to write its own script and sail straight into the quarterfinals without relying on the other match’s result with a victory over Canada in its final league encounter in Bhubaneswar on Saturday.
India are currenty level on points with Belgium but sit atop Pool C due to a superior goal difference of +4 over the Red Lions.
Should India beat the world No. 11 Canadians, they ought to have little problems in entering the last eight directly without having to go through a must-win crossover stage, which is for the second and third placed teams of each group.
Not only will a direct quarterfinals ticket give the hosts the liberty of more rest days by not playing an extra match, it will also give the boys a huge shot of confidence going into the business end of the tournament.
Should India draw or lose, they will have to hope that Belgium too have a bad day in the office against South Africa. The good thing for the Indians, though, is that they will play after the Red Lions’ match, which will give them a clear picture of what to do in their quest of a quarterfinal spot.
India head coach Harendra Singh, however, doesn’t want to leave anything to chance. “Our target is to top the pool irrespective of the result of Belgium vs South Africa game. Our fate is in our own hands,” Harendra said on the eve of the game on Friday.
“We expect two things. One, I need to finish on top. The other, I want a clean sheet and no goals scored against India,” he added.
The Manpreet Singh-led young Team India has been fairly impressive in the tournament so far, thrashing South Africa 5-0 in their opener and then rallying to hold the higher-ranked Belgians 2-2.
Canada, though, will pose a tricky challenge for the hosts, having drawn with India in the 2016 Rio Olympics and beaten them in the Hockey World League Semi-finals in London last year.
And with the lowestranked team in the competition, France, managing to shock Olympic champions Argentina on Thursday, India will have to ensure that they are at the top of their game to avoid an upset.