India meet Malaysia in semis tomorrow
The young Indian team, led by a new captain and a new coach, has so far played more than what was expected of them.
Ipoh: Bubbling with new-found confidence and determined to continue their brilliant run in the eight-nation event, India take on hosts Malaysia in the semifinals of the 16th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament here on Friday.
The young Indian team, led by a new captain and a new coach, has so far played more than what was expected of them but the semifinals would be altogether a different ball game and it remains to be seen how they soak up the pressure of the high-intensity match.
India had won a bronze in the last edition of the championship, showing signs of revival for the game in the country, before touching new low, including the disaster in Asian Games from where it returned empty-handed for the first time.
The win against Argentina on Wednesday, however, has boosted the team's morale but coach Joaquim Carvalho believes his wards has a real challenge on Friday.
"Last night's win against Argentina was a huge boost for the team and we will be going into the semis against Malaysia with a great deal of confidence with the hope of giving another strong performance," Carvalho told said.
In the other semi-final, Olympic champions Australia, who showed ominous form while routing China on Wednesday, are scheduled to meet Asian Games gold medallists Korea who ran into good form while ousting Pakistan 4-2 in their concluding league fixture.
The Indians provided a few moments of magic when they outplayed Argentina 2-0 in a must-win game with late goals by Bharat Chhikara and Tushar Khandekar.
Carvalho, however, preferred to play it down.
"True, we played well and the players are settling down as a combination. But then, we have to remember that all the teams participating in this tournament are young and in the process of rebuilding. Also, Argentina are outside the top six in the World. So, we should not get carried away by our performance, but work harder to improve further," he said.
"I will be happy if we play as well or preferably better, against teams such as Spain, Holland Germany. That would be a good index to measure the team. After all, one swallow does not make a summer," he remarked.