Hockey World Cup: Resurgent India look to halt Aussie juggernaut
The Hague (The Netherlands): Buoyed by their triumph over Malaysia, India would face their toughest challenge so far when they take on unbeaten reigning champions Australia in their final preliminary game of the hockey World Cup here tomorrow.
The Indians bounced back well to beat Malaysia 3-2 after losing back-to-back matches to start with and Sardar Singh`s men would draw from the new-found self-belief when they come face to face against the marauding Australians.
"The team is all set to take on Australia tomorrow. Our last match against Malaysia will act as a motivation as we are all looking forward to play the defending champions. There is positivity in the dressing room which will act in our favour on the field," an upbeat Indian captain Sardar said ahead of the tough match.
India currently have four points from as many matches after drawing the game against Spain. Australia have already made the semi-finals with four thumping wins, while India are in the fourth place in Group A.
"India are a young team and we are moving positively. We need to keep belief in our ability to put up a good contest against the best sides in the world," said coach Terry Walsh.
"Our first objective is to ensure we don`t allow chances in the closing stages, and we should start taking our chances and play to a plan that we have prepared," he said.
Australia have faced little opposition in their league matches so far. The way they hammered England 5-0 yesterday showed that the team was determined to live up to the promise to present a World Cup victory to their coach Ric Charlesworth, for whom this will be the last World Cup in any capacity.
Charlesworth already has the distinction of having won the World Cup both as captain (1986) and coach (2010).
Charlesworth also had a short stint as coach in India on an initiative of the International Hockey Federation, but left the country a bitter man following a fallout with the Sports Authority of India.
Suffering two defeats through last-minute goals against Belgium and England -- both vying for the second semifinal spot from the group -- India had no opportunity to stay in reckoning for a semifinal spot, but have plenty to play for in their last game.
The Indians finished eighth in the 2010 World Cup, and have a chance to improve on that if they can retain the fourth spot in the group.
Spain, who have two points, play Malaysia in their last game. Spain can overtake India`s current tally of four points if they defeat Malaysia.