India coach Roelant Oltmans plays down Pakistan rivalry

Ipoh: With medal hopes at stake, India will have to lift their game by leaps and bounds when they take on rivals Pakistan in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament today.

Roelant Oltmans
Roelant Oltmans

India were bronze medalists last year and are eager to stay in medal contention. But the Sardar Singh-led side, will have to raise its game by many fold after surviving a torrid time against Canada on Sunday.

India's 3-1 win over Canada has placed them third with six points from three outings, while Pakistan have three points from as many matches.

World champions Australia are leading the standings with a maximum nine points from three consecutive victories, while defending champions New Zealand are on eight points from four matches.

India captain Sardar Singh
India captain Sardar Singh

The intense hockey rivalry between the two teams has always attracted immense interest.

Despite slumping from their position as top hockey nations, an India-Pakistan encounter never fails to be a showstopper at any tournament. "The whole of India is waiting for the next game, but I keep telling the boys that this is just another game," said India's chief coach Roelant Oltmans.

'Maintain focus'
"We should maintain focus on our game just like in any other match. We have a tough schedule starting with the match against Pakistan," said the Dutchman.

Pakistan coach Khwaja Junaid, a former international, wants his players to display their skills and control the emotions when they play India.

"The match against India will be a turnover game," said Junaid. "The team that manages to defend the counter-attacks better will have an edge. What is important is that we follow our strategy, play in a structure and show unity."

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