Azlan Shah Cup: India to take on Canada

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Coach Ajay Kumar Bansal hopes to revive India's plummeting fortunes as the side is all set to take on Canada in their third outing of the Azlan Shah cup.

Updated: May 16, 2008 16:37 IST
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Ipoh (Malaysia):

By tightening the defence and improving the midfield play, coach Ajay Kumar Bansal hopes to revive India's plummeting fortunes as the side is all set to take on Canada in their third outing of the Azlan Shah hockey tournament on Sunday.

The Sardara Singh-led Indian side has lost its first two matches but Bansal said the team would not be affected by past disappointments and would avoid soft goals against the Canadians.

"Tomorrow is another day and we don't hang on to past results. I watched the Canada-Belgium match here. I am confident a victory is within our reach," Bansal said as the Indians had some intense training on the rest day today.

India went down to Argentina 1-5 yesterday and Bansal thought such defeats could be avoided.

"Yesterday, we lost not because we did not play well, but because we conceded two easy goals in the second half. My focus now is midfield and defence. Soft goals are dangerous and spoil the team's morale. This was exactly what happened against Argentina," he said.

One issue that should worry Bansal is the performance of recalled star Sandeep Singh, who scored three goals against New Zealand and just one yesterday.

Asked if he depended too much on Sandeep for the goals, Bansal said: "I have not instructed my forwards not to strike. They are inexperienced and I would have loved to have a player like Tushar Khandekar."

"I don't look at the outcome of a match solely on the basis of scoreline. Forwards are doing reasonably well," he added.

Bansal admitted that Sandeep appeared to have some specific problems against Argentina.

"He has some problems against Argentina. In the Champions Challenge Cup in Boom also, he could not strike against Argentina despite getting more penalty corners than what we got yesterday. He must learn to tackle dashing goalkeepers," he said.

Meanwhile, Canada's preparations received a setback as their most experienced player Ken Perreira is yet to join the team. The 34-year-old forward has so far earned 254 caps and is now playing for the HGC, Amsterdam, in Holland.

"His club plays the European Club semifinal today. He won't be joining us before the Pakistan match scheduled for Monday," said Canadian coach Louis Mendonca.

"His absence will certainly make a difference to the team, but again you see Ryan Archibald is not with New Zealand. Such things happen, and every team is supposed to have replacements," he added.

Mendonca, however, hoped that Perreira's absence would not affect his team much.

"Bindi Khullar and Mathew Guest are his replacements and I am glad the latter scored the winning goal against Belgium."

For Mendonca, the match against India would be no different from other encounters.

"We are preparing for the Beijing Olympics. We have to face all sorts of teams. The Indians are a skilful side and we have to manage that aspect," Louis said.

Under Mendonca, Canada qualified for the Beijing Olympics defeating Argentina in the Pan American Games final last year.

Asked if he had any plan to counter Sandeep, Mendonca said his team would be careful against him. "The likes of Sandeep and Kiwi Hayden Shaw can make their team's chances easy. We have to take care of them," he said.

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