Time for defence to step up

Time for defence to step up

Time for defence to step up

Soundly thrashed by Australia in their last match, India would look to sort out their defensive woes when they take on Malaysia in their quarterfinal match of the Hockey World League Semifinals here on Wednesday.

The Indian defenders, who let in six goals against world champions Australia in their last group match, will be again tested by the nippy Malaysians as the knockout stage begins at the KHC Dragons Stadium.

Going into Wednesday’s quarterfinal encounter against Asian Games champions India, the Malaysians would draw confidence from their 3-2 victory in the last fixture between the two teams at the Azlan Shah Cup two months ago.

While India are looking to make this a fruitful sojourn for the young players being fielded here, Malaysia are expected to throw everything into the contest as it could secure them qualification for the Olympic Games.

India’s passage to the 2016 Olympics is secure after winning the Asian Games gold medal at Incheon last year, allowing them the luxury of providing exposure to several young players, but they would be eager to finish on the podium ahead of hosting the World League Finals in December.

India coach Paul van Ass is rankled by the way his wards were hustled by Australia in the last preliminary league match, in which India suffered a 2-6 drubbing.

“The way we played against Australia can be very damaging,” said coach van Ass, whose team is hampered by the absence of seasoned penalty-corner drag-flicker Rupinder Pal Singh, who got injured during practice matches here.

Rupinder has not played any role in the tournament so far, but was seen training with the team during their last two matches. Indian captain Sardar Singh said Malaysia, who had arrived here after winning SEA Games gold medal in Singapore, were a competitive team and not easy to get past.

“Malaysia are a tough side, we need to be at our best to be able to match them. We must capitalise on the chances that we get,” said Sardar, aware that Malaysia’s nippy strikers could pose a threat to India’s defence.