India need to win vs Argentina to stay alive
Olympic hockey contenders are struggling to find that elusive winning formula at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, their last chance to tune up ahead of the London Games.
Other than unbeaten New Zealand, the six London-bound sides in the annual Malaysian tournament have been inconsistent at best, but coaches expressed confidence that they can work out the kinks and find their best line-ups.
India, Britain, Pakistan, South Korea, New Zealand and Argentina have all qualified for the Olympic hockey competition, which begins in July, while hosts Malaysia have not.
But the play of the Olympic hopefuls has been a litany of missed chances, botched penalty corners and failure to execute game plans as they have sought to accustom themselves to the blue surface that will be also be used in London.
India cannot afford to slip up in their all-important match against Argentina today to keep their hopes of sealing a final berth intact. India managed to beat hosts Malaysia 3-2 on Monday to take their points tally to six from four outings, same as Argentina. A win over the Pan American champions today and against arch-rivals Pakistan in the last league fixture tomorrow could take India to the final but it won’t be an easy road for Michael Nobbs’ players.
“It is about learning to win matches and playing what you have been taught,” said Nobbs. Nobbs had ripped into his team last week after they were crushed by 5-1 by the Kiwis on opening day last week, calling his defence “awful”.
India joint second
The Indians are now are joint second in the standings here along with Argentina, both having earned six points in four matches. “It is important that we put in practice what we have learned in training. Otherwise we face an uphill task against the bigger teams. In the Olympics you do not have the luxury of experimenting,” he said. “We have not been playing to our ability in the four matches thus far and our form has been patchy to say the least,” he said.