Five-time champions India ill-afford any slip up in their crucial match against Pan American champions Argentina tomorrow if they want to keep themselves in contention for a berth in the final of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament here.
India carved out a 3-2 victory over hosts Malaysia yesterday to take their points tally to six from four matches,the same as that of Argentina,who will go into tomorrow’s match with two impressive performances in the last outings,including a shock 3-2 win over favourites Great Britain.
A victory over Argentina tomorrow and against arch-rivals Pakistan in the last league fixture on Thursday could take India to the final but it won’t be an easy road ahead for Michael Nobbs’ players.
Nobbs said he has told his players that they were again in control of their destiny and must make the best out of the two remaining league outings.
The tournament is wide open. Big victories in our two remaining games could even get us a place in the final, said Nobbs.
Our focus has not shifted from preparing the squad for the Olympic Games,and we have improved with every outing here, he said.
India’s victories over Malaysia and South Korea,who are Asia’s top-ranked side in world rankings,have brought Nobbs’ side back in contention for a medal after a disastrous start with a 1-5 defeat against New Zealand.
New Zealand are on top of the standings with nine points after three straight victories.
India were lucky to score a match-winner in the last minute against South Korea while the defeat at the hands of Great Britain came after India squandered several scoring chances.
Great Britain could also lose the services of James Tindal for the remaining part of this tournament after he twisted his ankle in the closely-contested game against India,in which his side prevailed 3-2.
What has indeed opened up the tournament was Argentina’s 3-2 victory over fancied Great Britain,who at world number four are the top-ranked team in this tournament.
Argentine coach Pablo Lombi said his team was playing intelligent hockey”.
We now have two good wins,and the team has got its rhythm back. We’re creating good openings and making very few mistakes,said Lombi.
The players are very energetic and are enthused with the win over Great Britain,he said.
Argentina have bounced back in contention after losing their first two matches against Pakistan and New Zealand,which Lombi said showed the fighting qualities of our team.