In­dia look to seal­ing place in quar­ters

The Hitavada - - SPORTS -

THEIR cam­paign off to a smooth start, hosts In­dia would look to seal­ing a di­rect quar­ter­fi­nal berth with a win against Canada in their fi­nal Pool C match of the men’s hockey World Cup here on Satur­day.

World num­ber 5 In­dia are cur­rently lead­ing Pool C with four points from two games ahead of Olympic sil­ver medal­list Bel­gium (4 points) on ac­count of a bet­ter goal dif­fer­ence. The In­di­ans have a goal dif­fer­ence of + 5 as against Bel­gium’s +1.

Both Canada and South Africa have one point each from two matches but the North Amer­i­cans are placed third with a goal dif­fer­ence of -1 as against South Africa’s -5.

In­dia thrashed South Africa 50 and drew 2-2 against Bel­gium in their ear­lier matches, while Canada lost 1-2 against the Red Lions be­fore ek­ing out a hard­fought 1-1 draw against the Africans.

While In­dia are placed at an ad­van­ta­geous po­si­tion at present, the pool is still wide open.

The hosts would not want to leave any­thing on chance and they would seek a com­pre­hen­sive win on Satur­day to ce­ment their place atop the pool and di­rectly qual­ify for the last eight round.

The sec­ond and third placed teams from the pool will play cross-over matches against num­ber 2 and 3 teams of other pools to de­cide the re­main­ing last four quar­ter-fi­nal places.

Go­ing by records and form, In­dia are hands down favourites to come out vic­to­ri­ous against Canada.

But as we have wit­nessed on Thurs­day with world num­ber 20 France up­set­ting Olympic cham­pi­ons Ar­gentina in a Pool A en­counter, any­thing can hap­pen in mod­ern world hockey.

Be­sides the bet­ter rank­ings, In­dia en­joy a su­pe­rior head-to­head record against Canada. Since 2013, In­dia and Canada have played five matches against In­dia with the hosts hav­ing won three, lost one and drawn one.

So come to­mor­row, the In­di­ans will have to come out with a clear frame of mind and with just one goal — a com­pre­hen­sive win against Canada and top the pool.

But it would be eas­ier said than done as the Cana­di­ans have im­proved tremen­dously over the years, es­pe­cially their de­fence, which was vis­i­ble in their first

game against Bel­gium who found it dif­fi­cult to break their back­line and just man­aged to eke out a nar­row 2-1 win.

The onus would be on In­dia’s lethal foward­line com­pris­ing Man­deep Singh, Sim­ran­jeet Singh, Akashdeep Singh and Lalit Upad­hyay to take the re­spon­si­bil­ity on their shoul­ders.

In­dian play­ers will look to play­ing at­tack­ing hockey against Canada in their last league out­ing and seal a knock-out berth in the Men’s Hockey World Cup at Bhubaneswar.

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