Incheon: Shattered after the close 1-2 loss against arch-rivals Pakistan, Indian men's hockey team will have to regroup themselves quickly and eye atleast a draw in their last crucial Pool B fixture against China here on Saturday, to qualify for the semifinals of the 17th Asian Games.
After dishing out an insipid display, both in attack and defense, against Pakistan yesterday, The Sardar Singh-led side will need to tighten their belt and come up with a much more convincing display against China.
A draw on Saturday would be enough for India to seal their semifinal berth as the second best team from Pool B as they enjoy a better goal difference than the Chinese.
India, thanks to their superior goal difference of plus 17, are lying second in the pool ahead of their crunch game against China which they have to win or draw to ensure their berth in the last four.
But if they manage to qualify, it won't be easy for India in the semifinals as they clash against hosts and four-time champions South Korea, who will end up in the top spot in Pool A.
The danger of going in with a defensive mind-set to force a draw in the match might just backfire for the Indians which was the reason for chief coach Terry Walsh to say that his wards needed to win the game against China after the defeat against eight-time champions Pakistan.
While the Indian forward-line functioned disjointedly against the skillful Pakistanis with hardly any support from the midfield, besides missing a few gilt-edge chances.
The Indian defense was also panicked whenever the rivals attacked deep into their area.
India hardly produced a defense-splitting pass during the entire duration of the game and failed to stitch together enough number of passes to break through the determined Pakistan defense.
Surprisingly, even the ever dependable Sardar Singh did not have a great match as he was called upon more to bolster the fumbling defense and, as a result, could not control the midfield as he does.
Roving forward Akashdeep Singh and Ramandeep Singh were guilty of not grabbing the chances that came their way which cost India dear.
Even though India are above China in world ranking, it would be a mistake to take them tomorrow and Walsh also warned his wards not to be complacent.
"We have a very big game coming up against China tomorrow and we have to win that match to reach the semi-finals. It's not going to be an easy game as China are a tough team to beat," said the former Australia forward.
China and India have both come to this stage after winning by big margins against minnows Sri Lanka, back in Asiad fray after 32 years, and Oman and losing to Pakistan.
The pressure would be huge on the Indian men to deliver the goods and book a place in the semi-finals which are scheduled on September 30.