India face NZ in another must-win match of Azlan Shah Cup
Ipoh: Their campaign back on track after the morale-boosting win over arch-rivals Pakistan, India cannot afford to relax as they face another must-win situation against defending champions New Zealand tomorrow to stay alive in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament here.
The Indians would also hope for the lady luck to smile on them as their stay in the competition also depends upon the results of other round-robin group matches.
Not only for the Indians, is tomorrow’s dueling also a must-win one for the Black Sticks.
With three points from as many games, India are presently lying in the fourth position in the team standings behind top-placed Australia (7 points), hosts Malaysia (7) and New Zealand (3).
Malaysia`s 1-1 draw against six-time champions Australia last night has made life difficult for other four competing teams.
The first drawn game between the two unbeaten teams of the tournament has meant that other aspirants will have to wait with bated breath and hope that Australia and Malaysia does not end up on the winning side in their respective next matches against Korea and Pakistan tomorrow.
A win for Australia and Malaysia will take them to 10 points, beyond the reach of India, New Zealand, Pakistan and Korea, who all have one win under their belt, and victories in their next two games will not be enough as they can at best reach nine points.
The Indians only had themselves to blame to be in such a precarious position as they had suffered close defeats in their opening two encounters against Australia (3-4) and Korea (1-2).
But for India, the immediate task is to beat New Zealand tomorrow and hope that Pakistan get the better of Malaysia in the final match of the day.
If Australia and Malaysia manage to win their respective matches tomorrow, Saturday`s final round-robin matches will be rendered inconsequential.
The Indians, however, got their act together just in time by registering a morale-boosting win over Pakistan after the successive defeats.
India put up a spirited display to down Pakistan 3-1 yesterday, and the victory undoubtedly will raise the confidence of the Danish Mujtaba-led young side.
India`s chief coach Michael Nobbs said that he is not ready to look beyond tomorrow`s New Zealand match.
"True, the boys lifted the quality of play against Pakistan when it mattered. Still there are a few grey areas we need the polish. New Zealand`s flair is different from the Asian brand and the Indians have to be on their toes to match them in speed," Nobbs said ahead of tomorrow`s crucial game.
If India manages to win tomorrow and results of other matches turn in their favour, then stakes would be high in their last round-robin match against Malaysia on Saturday.