Azlan Shah: India seek semifinal berth

With both the semifinal berths from their group up for grabs, India will take on Argentina in their concluding league match of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.

updated: May 09, 2007 12:58 IST
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With both the semifinal berths from their group up for grabs, India will take on Argentina in their concluding league match of the 16th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament on Wednesday.

India have three points from their 5-4 win against China that followed a 0-1 defeat to Australia on the opening day in the eight-nation hockey tournament.

Argentina lead the table with six points after their 1-0 win against Australia and 3-2 triumph over China, which made the group wide open, as far as the semi-final spots are concerned.

The Aussies take on China in the first match on Wednesday and the Indians will have the benefit of knowing what is required of them to advance to the semi-finals as they face Argentina later on.

"The game against Argentina will not be a cakewalk for sure. We need to be at the top of our game and our deep defence will have to perform exceptionally well. We had a bad game against China when we committed mistakes inside the circle and conceded nine penalty corners. We cannot afford to repeat that tomorrow," Carvalho said.

Argentina too have fielded a young team in this tournament and are in the process of rebuilding their side.

Their coach Sergio Roberto Vigil has a healthy respect for the Indian team and he said, "The Indians are very skillful and fast. I expect a close match."

Argentina were not impressive against China.

Carvalho, however, refused to underestimate the opponents and said, "Every match is different and anything can happen on a given day. You cannot predict results in modern hockey. Like us, every team would like to have a good outing."

Meanwhile, after a day's break, the Indian team was back in training this morning.

India focus on penalty corner

During the two-hour session on the stadium pitch this morning, the Indians focused on penalty corner defence and also dead-ball situations outside their circle.

"We committed far too many mistakes against China in these two areas and we are working on these aspects," said Carvalho.

The coach has also insisted on the forwards to learn defending skills. Thus the accent this morning was on having all the 11 players inside the circle, facing free-hits and defending set-piece moves with the forwards forming the first wall of defence.

The Indian players appeared to be in a buoyant mood and the team has no injuries to deal with. Midfielder Bimal Lakra, who suffered a groin injury during the China match, has since
recovered and is back to full fitness.

The league phase of the tournament concludes on Wednesday with the top two teams from each group advancing to the semi-finals that are scheduled for Friday. The final is slated for Sunday.