Ipoh, Malaysia: Already through to the semifinals, an upbeat India aim to keep their winning juggernaut rolling and end their group-stage with a thumping victory over minnows Bangladesh in the Asia Cup hockey tournament, here on Wednesday.
After back-to-back victories against Oman and defending champions South Korea, the Indians are brimming with confidence but they cannot afford to relax in the eight-nation tournament, which they need to win to qualify for next year's World Cup at The Hague, Netherlands.
India sealed their semifinal place after shocking title holders South Korea 2-0 in their second Pool B match at the Sultan Azlan Shah Stadium yesterday.
A win against Bangladesh would ensure India top Pool B which means they will most likely take on hosts Malaysia in the semifinals and avoid arch-rivals Pakistan till the final hurdle.
Taming Bangladesh shouldn't be much of a problem for Roelant Oltmans' boys as the Tigers' would be morally down after consecutive defeats, especially Monday's 2-4 loss against Oman, a side which is five places below them in the world rankings. Bangladesh had earlier lost 0-9 to Korea in their opening tie.
For both eight-time Olympic champions India and neighbours Pakistan, it is a do-or-die tournament as one of them faces the prospect of missing out on a World Cup berth for the first time since the launch of the tournament in 1971.
But having impressed in the tournament so far, the Indians would be hoping to carry on the momentum to crucial classification matches.
The Indian midfield under inspirational captain Sardar Singh blossomed against the Koreans on Monday. Not only the mid-fielders, India’s fragile backline too stood tall to thwart Korea’s relentless attacks.
India's interim coach Roelant Oltmans would hope for similar performances from his players in the remainder of the event.
"I am very happy with the performance of all the mid-fielders - Sardar, SK Uthappa, Chinglensana (Singh), Manpreet (Singh). Our defenders also did very well. I am happy with the overall team performance. This is a huge experience for the youngsters in our team," Oltmans said.
In the absence of forwards Danish Mujtaba, SV Sunil, Gurwinder Singh Chandi and Akashdeep Singh -- all out of the tournament due to injuries -- India fielded a young, untested forwardline for this tournament.
But the likes of Mandeep Singh, Nithin Thimmaiah, Malak Singh, Ramandeep Singh and Nikin Thimmaiah have managed to rise to the occasion. Mandeep, in particular, has been in superb form so far, scoring four goals in the tournament, including three against Oman in the opener.
Goalkeeper PR Sreejesh is in great form and was widely responsible for the victory against Korea. Sreejesh made as many as six or seven clear saves, which included some acrobatic efforts, to earn the man-of-the-match award and help India keep a clean sheet. (India vs Korea, as it happened)
However, Oltmans admitted that India were lucky not have conceded a goal in the opening half against Korea.
"To be honest we were lucky to be leading at halftime, especially after conceding five penalty corners in the first half," he said.
India head-to-head against Bangladesh is impressive, having defeated them 18 times out of 19 encounters with one match ending in a draw.