Jakarta, August 29: India, the defending champions in the men's hockey event at the Asian Games, will face a big challenge against the improving Malaysia in their semifinal to be played on Thursday (August 30) in Jakarta.
While the PR Sreejesh-led Indian team have made the semis as Pool A toppers after high-scoring victories against Indonesia (17-0), Hong-Kong China (26-0), Japan (8-0), Republic Of Korea (5-3) and Sri Lanka (20-0), Malaysia come into the semifinals with strong wins against Kazakhstan (16-2), Thailand (10-0), Bangladesh (7-0), Oman (7-0). They have lost just one match in the tournament thus far to Pakistan 1-4 to finish second in Pool B points table.
India have beaten Malaysia thrice in the last year at the Asia Cup, Sultan Azlan Shah Cup and Commonwealth Games 2018, but had a humiliating 2-3 defeat in the Hockey World League Semi-Final last year.
In this tournament, India have been a class apart, having scored a record 76 total goals so far. Though they would have liked to keep a clean sheet, they conceded just three goals in the five matches they have played.
The Indian Men’s Hockey Team will take on Malaysia in the decisive Semi-Final clash of the @asiangames2018 on 30th August. Tune in to @SPNSportsIndia and @SonyLIV at 4 PM (IST) tomorrow to watch the action LIVE! #IndiaKaGame #AsianGames2018 #INDvMAS pic.twitter.com/al4Syw8bBR— Hockey India (@TheHockeyIndia) August 29, 2018
"Ideally we would have liked to keep a clean slate. That was the aim of our defence plan but we made silly defensive errors against Republic of Korea. We have watched the videos of that match again to analyse where we must correct ourselves before we take on Malaysia who play very cautious hockey and we must play with high speed and control the match from the first quarter itself to put pressure on them," India goalkeeper-captain PR Sreejesh said.
According to the experienced skipper, India must ensure they defend carefully in order to keep Malaysia from earning PCs, which is one of their strong points. "While I feel we must continue the same tempo we have shown in our attack, we must be doubly cautious in our defending and ensure we don't give away PCs which will be critical," he added.
While the Indian strikers and drag-flickers have had a field day in all their matches, going at a rampaging speed to convert goals after goals, doing the same against Malaysia will not be easy with an equally experienced goalkeeper of 300 caps in S Kumar guarding their post.
"Yes, scoring against an experienced player like Kumar who has been in good nick won't be easy for our strikers but this is the challenge they must embrace and look at different variations to beat the Malaysian defence and score. We must convert every opportunity we create in the circle and ensure we work towards finishing well," asserted Sreejesh.
India, however, will look to ride on their previous wins against the Malaysian unit. At the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, India won 2-1 and previously played them at the Sultan Azlan Shah Tournament in Ipoh, Malaysia in March where the Indian team had beaten the hosts 5-1. At the 2017 Asia Cup in Dhaka too, India had beaten Malaysia 6-2 in the Super 4s stage followed by a narrow 2-1 victory in the final to lift the Asia Cup. "We don't want to go by our previous results. Each tournament is different and we just want to focus on our strengths in the semifinal tomorrow," Sreejesh added.
India vs Malaysia
Asian Games 2018 semifinal
At 4 pm IST
Matches will be shown live on Sony ESPN, Sony ESPN HD, Sony TEN 1, Sony TEN 1 HD, Sony TEN 3 and Sony TEN 3 HD while the live streaming will be available on SonyLIV.com.
Source: Hockey India