Sandeep has been in superb touch and has scored eight goals in four matches but India has struggled against tough rivals though it topped the pool with an all-win record.
After warming up with a 7-0 victory over Hong Kong, India tore apart Bangladesh 9-0. But then it struggled to get the better of their arch-foes Pakistan and Japan, not a powerhouse even in the continent, in successive matches by identical 3-2 margins.
The defensive errors which have dogged the team for long, again surfaced against Pakistan. Custodian Bharat Chetri and full back Sardar Singh, a converted centre half, have been doing a good job but would need better support in the back from the others like Sandeep, Dhananjay Mahadik and Danish Mujtaba.
Coach Jose Brasa must have warned his wards not to repeat the mistakes, the defense committed in their last two matches, against Malaysia as he was not pleased with India's match against Japan on Sunday.
The forward line has also looked very good at times but not so co-ordinated and would need to be at its best against Malaysia, who have an excellent goal-keeper in Kumar Subramaniam.
The Malaysian deep defense which is led by captain Madzli Ikmar Mohd. Nor, would be a tough nut to crack if Rajpal Singh, Shivendra Singh, Arjun Halappa and Tushar Khandekar do not get good support from the Indian midfield, which has been largely unimpressive thus far.
The Malaysias have played well against India in the recent past. They had lost a thriller to eight-time Olympic champions India 2-3 in the Commonwealth Games in Delhi but had defeated them 5-2 in the Sultan Azlan Shah tournament at home.
The Koreans, looking for a hat trick of titles, would start as firm favourites in the first semi-final against Pakistan who have been good only in patches.
Pakistan will rely on their star forward Rehan Butt and Shakeel Abbasi to breach the Korean defense but need to be careful in defending penalty corners in which their rivals are expected to come up with lot of variations.
Pakistan would also be hoping that their ace drag-flick expert Sohail Abbas, recalled for the event to give them the extra edge, delivers.
Against India, the Pakistanis were unable to earn a short corner till the 57th minute of the match and that too failed to bear fruit as Chetri came up with a fine stick save to deflect away Sohai's shot.
Topics : Hockey