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Expert Talk: Arjun Halappa decodes India's Asia Cup hockey SF

Expert Talk: Arjun Halappa decodes India's Asia Cup hockey SF

"India should now take their game to the next level," says Arjun Halappa - former India captain and member of the present selection panel.

In less than eight hours from now, India will perhaps play its most crucial hockey game of the year. Never before has an Indian men's team missed the World Cup. But if they lose to Malaysia on Friday in the Asia Cup semi-final, that may turn into embarrassing reality.

Winning the Asia Cup is India's last clear-cut chance to qualify for the World Cup. They squandered the opportunity in the World League semi-finals in Rotterdam, and now find themselves in a do-or-die situation.

The heartening fact, though, is that the 18 men in Ipoh have done well until now to reach the semi-finals undefeated. That brings a smile on Arjun Halappa's face. The former India captain and member of the newly-formed national selection panel talked to IBNLive.com focusing on India's big game on Friday.

On reaching the semi-finals...

Credit should be given to the team. The primary target was to reach the semi-finals. That was very important. Now that we have achieved our first target, it's time to take our game to the next level.

Malaysia as opponents...

If we look at the last 10 years, India have fared well against them. Of course, they have the home advantage on Friday, crowd will cheer for them. That can spur any team on. But India are playing well. They should not think of the result and continue to play as they have been in the last three matches.

Approaching the semi-final...

As I said, don't think of the result. Keep it as simple as you can. [Roelant] Oltmans has said the same thing, to not take any pressure. Just play your best hockey, give it your best shot.

World Cup qualification...

It's better to not think about the World Cup [qualification] and play the game. Don't think of the result. Now that we are in the knockouts, it's best to take it match by match. Focus on winning and rest of the things will fall in order, including a place in the World Cup.