Ipoh (Malaysia):With nothing less than a win required to make the final, India will have to guard against late defensive lapses when they take on arch-rivals Pakistan in their do-or-die league encounter of the Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament on Saturday.
India has conceded late equalisers in two of the three matches they have played so far in the tournament and Sandeep Singh's men, who were runners-up here last year, cannot afford such a lapse tomorrow against Pakistan.
Pakistan, who lost two of their three league games, have suddenly jumped back into contention after beating minnows Egypt in their third match.
Pakistan thrashed the tournament-debutants 4-0 after suffering losses at the hands of Malaysia and New Zealand.
A win tomorrow might just be enough to get them a berth in the finals. India have five points from their three games, while Pakistan have three. Malaysia are at the top with six points and their opponents tomorrow, New Zealand, have five points.
India could have already made the finals had it not been for the defensive errors in the dying minutes, the first of which was against the Egyptians.
Just 40 seconds before the final hooter, India ended up conceding a goal after leading 2-1 all through the match.
After a thumping 3-0 win over hosts and table-toppers Malaysia, India looked on course to a win over New Zealand as well, leading 2-1 but yet again, a late equaliser (63rd minute) denied them full points.
"It is not over yet and we will go all out to beat Pakistan," says coach Harendra Singh.
India will once again rely heavily on skipper and penalty corner specialist Sandeep Singh to do the scoring. The in-form Sandeep has scored four of India's seven goals in the tournament.
In the other match, Malaysia would need just a draw to get through but New Zealand, like India, have to post a win to make the summit clash.