High on confidence after the spirited showing against Australia, the Indian men's hockey team would look to win outright against South Africa in their final group match on Thursday, even though a draw is enough to seal their semifinal spot in the 20th Commonwealth Games. (CWG Day 7 Wrap | Highlights | Results | Medal Tally)
Going into Thursday's crucial match, both India and South Africa have six points from two wins apiece but the Sardar Singh-led side occupy the second position behind Australia in Group A on account of better goal difference. (Indian women's hockey team out of medal contention)
Last edition's silver medallist India has a goal difference of plus four as against South Africa's zero, and the Terry Walsh's boys are fully aware that a draw would be more than enough for them to make it to the knockout stage of the quadrennial event. (Indian stars reach round of 16 in badminton)
The Indians would be high on confidence ahead of tomorrow's duel, especially after their impressive performance against reigning Commonwealth Games gold medallist and world champions Australia. (Usain Bolt denies foul-mouthed criticism of CWG)
India put up a valiant fight before going down 2-4 against mighty Australia, who blanked them 0-8 in the final of the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games. (Boxers guarantee more medals for India)
While the forward line and midfield have so far managed to produce satisfactory result in the tournament, it is the fragile backline which remains a cause of concern for India.
Against Australia yesterday, the Indians conceded two soft goals, mainly defensive lapses, in the first half to hand the initiative to the opponent.
And coach Walsh is fully aware that his wards will have to do away with their habit of giving away easy balls to the opponents or otherwise it can spell doom for the Indians.
While Rupinder Pal Singh has been a little shaky in defence, there is no doubting his ability with penalty corners. He has so far scored four goals in the tournament, all coming from short corners and India would be hoping for similar showing from the lanky drag flicker.
Even though a draw is enough for India to seal a semi-final berth, India's chief coach Walsh said they will going for an outright win against South Africa tomorrow.
"We are going to try and create as many chances at goal as possible. We will not play for draws as that might end up bad," Walsh had said.
"We lost two more goals of advantage, that might hurt us later."
Talking about tomorrow's encounter, Walsh said: "South Africa has some quality in attack so we will be required to close down all avenues. A semi-final position is at stake but more importantly our playing qualities will need to be in place for a good result."
Going by rankings, India start as favourites as they placed ninth in the FIH chart as against South Africa's 12th position.
South Africa, on the other hand, know very well that only a win on Thursday can keep their medal hopes alive and will go all out attacking to secure full three points from the match.
South Africa will look for inspiration from their skipper Austin Smith who brings along with him plenty of experience and a fair bit of knowledge about Indian players having played along side them in the first two editions of Hockey India League.
Story first published on: Thursday, 31 July 2014 13:50 IST