Defending champions India would look for an outright win against South Korea in their final Super 4 round-robin league match to book their place in the final of the Asia Cup men’s hockey tournament on Tuesday. India had almost clinched a spot in the title clash on Sunday before Razie Rahim turned out to be Malaysia’s saviour with a hat-trick in an enthralling 3-3 draw in their second ‘Super 4’ encounter.
India had earlier defeated Japan 2-1 in their first match on Saturday.
As the Super 4’s table stands, South Korea with a goal difference of +2 (5-3) are on top with India (GD) of +1 (5-4) are placed second.
Japan with two defeats are out of the reckoning while Malaysia (GD) 0 (5-5) have an outside chance if they can beat Japan by a comprehensive margin (minimum 2 goals) provided India and South Korea match ends in a draw.
But come Tuesday, the Indians would look to avoid the permutations and combinations with an outright win over the Koreans.
However, it would be easier said than done as the Koreans looked a completely different side in the Suer 4s, having drawn 2-2 against Malaysia and then beating Japan 3-1.
The Indians too upped their game by leaps and bounds after their first two pool games.
India not only achieved an impossible task of beating hosts Indonesia by more than 15-goal margin in their last pool match to qualify for the Super 4s but also eked out a close 2-1 win over Japan, who defeated them 2-5 in the preliminary stages.
Against Malaysia on Sunday, the Indians made valiant fightback and came from two goals down to lead 3-2 in the final quarter before Rahim converted a penalty corner from the final hooter to snatch the win from India’s hands, which could have sealed their place in the summit clash.
The Indian forward line looked impressive with the likes of Uttam Singh, SV Sunil and Pawan Rajbhar shinning brightly with their industrious play.
In fact, it was Sunil, who scored a fine goal against Malaysia from an acute angle after Rajbhar set it up for the former with his powerful play in the midfield.
In fact, the Indians created numerous chances but the strikers failed to get the decisive touch in the final third, an area which head coach Sardar Singh would want his boys to improve.
The mid-field fared well so far but it is the Birendra Lakra-led back-line which needs to pull up its socks as they conceded unnecessary penalty corners from which the Malaysians benefited.
Suraj Karkera has been impressive under the Indian goalpost, making numerous saves with his alertness and positioning.
But against the Koreans the Indians will have to be at their best as their opponents are known for brisk counterattacks.
Meanwhile in the other Super 4 match of the day, Japan will play Malaysia.
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