India work on forwards ahead of Asia Cup semifinal

Malacca (Malaysia): Defending champions India will seek to fine-tune their forward-line`s precision when they take on an aggressive Malaysia in the semifinals of the Junior Asia Cup hockey tournament here on Thursday.

Blessed with sharp shooters in the circle, Malaysia emerged as the only team in the pool to win all its matches with good margin.

They would depend on their strikers again to deliver against India tomorrow in the semifinal face-off in their quest to annex their maiden Junior Asian title.

India struck only four goals in the last two matches after thumping Sri Lanka 11-0 in the opener whereas Malaysia, despite not having any weak teams in its pool, amassed 15 goals.

India would aim to match them in aggression and put in extra effort to polish the attack line in their preparatory exercise.

"We have been equally good as other teams including Malaysia at penetrating the circle. But we were found wanting in finishing. Whether here or in the long-term interest of the team, we have to be more precise and purposeful in the circle," coach Baljit Singh said.

"Positioning in the circle is the area that concerns me, and we have been working on that. We have very good forwards. They are doing a great job here. With a bit more polishing, we can take any rival at this grade," he added.

Malaysian coach Dharmaraj also rated the present Indian team high.

"I saw the Indian team in the Sultan of Johor Cup last November. This team certainly looks improved and is playing as a better unit. We will have a good game tomorrow," the coach, who led Malaysia to the Johor of Sultan Cup title, said.

Olympian Thoiba Singh, Indian team manager, too expects a tight game tomorrow but would not attach too much importance to attack alone.

"It is going to be a 50-50 game for both the teams. They have some good forwards, they may penetrate our circle more. At the same time I don`t feel their defence is strong. We can also match them in attack," he said.

India lost badly (1-5) when they met Malaysia last time in the Johor Cup. But the Indian team`s defence coach Lajrus Barla is unfazed by the past statistics.

"We got two cards (suspensions) simultaneously and were playing with two players less which affected the balance. Such things are freak and we have forgotten that day. Here, we are as good as any other good team," Barla, who led India in the 2000 Junior Asia Cup, said.

The match starts 15.30 hrs IST.


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