Hockey: Rampant India take on hosts Malaysia in Asia Cup semis

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Hockey: Ind to take on Malaysia in semis
Ipoh (Malaysia), Aug 30: Brimming with confidence after three consecutive wins, India will have to guard against complacency when they take on hosts Malaysia, a team who are capable of springing up surprises, in the semifinal of the ninth Asia Cup hockey tournament on Friday.

Unlike their opponents, the Indians will be high on confidence after securing their semifinal berth with an unbeaten record. The Sardar Singh-led side spanked debutants Oman 8-0, followed by wins over defending champions South Korea (2-0) and Bangaldesh (9-1) to top Pool B.

Malaysia, on the other hand, finished second in Pool A after they won against Chinese Taipei and Japan but lost to Pakistan in their Pool A engagements.

An Unpredictable opponent

Fully aware that two more wins here would ensure their ticket for next year's World Cup at The Hague, Netherlands, the 11th ranked Indians cannot afford to relax at the business end of the eight-nation tournament, and especially against an unpredictable side like Malaysia.

Malaysia, on the other hand, finished second in Pool A after they won against Chinese Taipei and Japan but lost to Pakistan in their Pool A engagements.

India, who never missed out on a World Cup berth since the tournament's introduction in 1971, will like to avoid the repeat of yet another debacle after the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where the Indian team had failed to qualify for the first time in the history of the game. Having played Malaysia on numerous occasions, the Indians, who start as favourites, know very well that the hosts on their given day can upset top teams of the world.

Another factor which will work against India in the semifinal is home support. Come tomorrow, and the Malaysians will be backed by a vociferous home crowd, a fact which India captain Sardar Singh admitted. "It is a very crucial match for us in the recent times. Malaysia is tough opponent. You cannot predict them. We will have to play against the entire stadium tomorrow as they will have home support behind them," Sardar said. "But we are completely focussed on our job. We know we have to win and we are confident of pulling it across," he said.

On the game front, the Indians have impressed so far in the tournament and would be hoping to carry on the momentum in the final two games.

As always captain Sardar Singh has been a rock in India's midfield under whose shadow youngsters like Manpreet Singh, Chinglensana Singh and S K Uthappa have blossomed. India's young and inexperienced forwardline too have managed to live up to the expectations so far. In the other semi-final, Pakistan face defending champions Korea.

PTI

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