Confident India Aspire to Rise to Australian Challenge
Indian Hockey Team (Picture Credit: Getty Image)
London: A first-time entry into the final at stake, a confident India would aspire to rise to the challenge of taking on Australia in their last league outing of the 36th Hero Champions Trophy on Thursday.
India were beaten by four goals in two encounters against Australia in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup tournament in Ipoh (Malaysia) two months ago, but are eager to produce a better show against the reigning world champions, who have already secured their place in the title match, at the Lee Valley Hockey Centre.
World No. 1 Australia prevailed 5-1 in their league fixture of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup against India and then, when the teams again met in the final, the dominant side from Down Under triumphed 4-0.
India are drawing inspiration from their victory last year in a Test match at home, ahead of the World League Finals in Raipur.
India's most notable performance against Australia recently was in the 2015 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup where striker Nikkin Thimmaiah's hat-trick spurred them to victory, but that was an experimental Australian team.
Ahead of the Olympic Games, Australia have fielded a very strong side here, but are in a dilemma over penalty corner shooter Chris Ciriello's fitness.
"The match against Australia is a very tough outing. We have to produce our best performance to put up a good contest," said Indian coach Roelant Oltmans, who is happy to see the Indians stay in the hunt for a medal.
"A medal at the Champions Trophy was the target we set ourselves when we set off for London. I'm happy that our game has improved with every tournament," said Oltmans.
Australia are heading the round-robin league standings with 10 points from four outings, followed by India on seven from four matches.
A victory over Australia on Thursday would put India into the final of the Champions Trophy, something they have not achieved so far, but even a draw could boost their prospects of making the title encounter.
Great Britain and Belgium are the other teams that can win their last league match to edge out India from the final.
These two teams will clash in the last league engagement and will have the luxury of playing after the Australia-India fixture.
Britain are currently on five points and Belgium are on four. If Australia defeat India, hosts Britain will just need a win over Belgium to overtake India on points, but Belgium too can finish second on goal difference if they prevail in this match.
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