India colts need to be best in Asia Cup final

July 17th, 2008 - 7:36 pm ICT by IANS  

By Avishek Roy
Hyderabad, July 17 (IANS) Defending Champions India will have to play in Friday’s final against Korea as well as they did against Pakistan if they have to retain the junior Asia hockey Cup at the Gachibowli Stadium here. India played one of their best matches in the tournament to outsmart three-time champion Pakistan 3-1 in the semifinal and will be favourites to retain the title. Korea though have improved with every match and will be tough to tackle.

India had beaten Korea in the eight-nation tournament in Kuala Lampur early this year and though the bulk of the Korean team is the same, their game has gone up a few notches since then.

Coach A K Bansal knows that Korea will not be easy meat and India will have to be at their best. Korea, too, played good hockey to thrash Japan 4-2 and Bansal saw the entire match with his team.

“They are a vastly improved side since we played them in January in Kuala Lumpur. They are a very well-knit side and we will have to attack consistently to crack open their defence,” said Bansal just after the team’s two-hour training at Gachibowli Stadium Thursday.

Bansal also said the Koreans are better than the Pakistanis.

“The boys are very happy after beating Pakistan in that tense match, but we should not be complacent after making it to the final. We have to be cautious and positive at the same time,” he said.

India will rely heavily on their star of the tournament Diwakar Ram, who has pumped in eight goals so far. Diwakar had a fine game against Pakistan in which he scored two goals to shut them out and his confidence will certainly be sky-high.

Indians did try Innocent Kullu to take the team’s first penalty corner against Pakistan, but he hit wide. India would do well to stick with Diwakar.

Diwakar though has a contender in Korean drag-flicker Nam Hyun Woo, who is tournament’s highest scorer with nine goals, four of which came in the semifinal against Japan.

Bansal said his team has chalked out a plan to handle drag-flickers Nam Hyun Woo and Lee Young Kuk.

But the most positive thing for India will be their forward line comprising S V Sunil, Gurwinder Singh Chandi, who combined well against Pakistan and kept the defence under tremendous pressure.

It would also be a big test for goalkeeper Sreejesh PR, who has thus far had a good tournament.

Korean coach Lim Jung Woo said: ” We will play to our strength, and will not take the hosts easy.

“I don’t think there would be any pressure on us. We are happy with our performance in the tournament. ”

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