Breda (Netherlands), June 29:
India would look to eke out at least a draw against hosts Netherlands in their last round robin match here tomorrow, a result that will be enough for the eight-time Olympic champions to grab a second consecutive final spot at the Champions Trophy hockey tournament.
India are currently placed second in the standings with seven points from two wins, one loss and a draw. Defending and world champions Australia are atop the table with 10 points and have already secured a berth in Sunday’s summit clash.
As per the rules of the six-nation tournament, the top two teams from the round robin stage will play in the final.
For India the equation is simple — a draw tomorrow would surely guarantee their place in what can be termed as a repeat of 2016 Champions Trophy final in London.
For Netherlands, it is a must-win match as only a victory can ensure their place in the final.
In the other inconsequential match of the day, in-form Australia are considered as hands down favourites against Olympic champions Argentina.
Under new chief coach Harendra Singh, India could not have asked for a better start to their campaign here. The Indians mauled arch-rivals Pakistan 4-0 before stunning Argentina 2-1.
But thereafter, India lost to Australia 2-3 after a valiant fight before conceding a late goal to draw 1-1 against Belgium last night.
But the results of the opening two games hold India in good stead as they now need just a draw against Netherlands to secure their final berth.
Even though Ramandeep Singh’s injury hurt India badly, but the strikers have been in good form in this tournament. The likes of Mandeep Singh, Dilpreet Singh and Lalit Upadhayay have lived upto expectations but SV Sunil looked a pale shadow of himself.
The defenders too did a decent job but in the last two games against Australia and Belgium, they crumbled when put under immense pressure.
Experienced PR Sreejesh has been phenomenal under the goal for India and it solely because of his heroics, India managed to garner a point against Belgium yesterday.
But the major cause of concern for India would be their penalty corner conversion rate. Despite earning a handful of penalty corners in the last four games, India converted just three through Harmanpreet Singh.
And Harendra would need to address these issues if India want to win their maiden Champions Trophy title in the last edition of the tournament.
Even though India need just a draw to progress, Harendra and his team would definitely go for the kill against the hosts tomorrow. PTI