India's last round robin fixture in the ongoing Sultan Azlan Shah Cup is a must-win game against Malaysia, to reach the final of the competition in Ipoh. Australia have already booked their Sultan Azlan Shah Cup final berth.
India and Malaysia presently lie third and fourth in the standings, with nine and eight points respectively. New Zealand lie in second place. If India and Malaysia play out a draw on Friday, New Zealand will enter the final. So, both teams need three points to help them leapfrog New Zealand, but Malaysia needs to win with a big goal margin to reach the final.
Some of India's performances in the competition, like the one against Pakistan, have been impressive, but they have also failed to maitain consistency. This match against Malaysia is expected to a tough one for India as the hosts have looked good in the competition, having lost only one match so far.
The home team always receives massive support in Ipoh, which is going to boost the side's morale in such a crucial encounter. India will need to be at the top of their game against Malaysia, and give away lesser turnovers.
India showed that they are capable of scoring quality field goals against Pakistan, but they have been reliant on conversion of penalty corners. With Malaysia having leaked in 13 goals, India should be confident of finding the back of Malaysia's net, and emerge victorious. India will want their forwards SV Sunil, who has explosive pace, and Ramnadeep Singh to take advantage when chances come their way.
However, India's defence has not been impressive that in the competition. They have lacked consistency, and given away possession in their own half, hence conceding goals. Coach Roelant Oltmans is aware such mistakes could cost them the final spot.
"We're keen to make the final, but for getting there we need to produce a good game of hockey against Malaysia. Malaysia have exhibited some good hockey, but were unlucky not to get better results," Press Trust of India quoted Oltmans as saying.
Malaysia come into this game with their heads held high, after defeating Pakistan in their last encounter, which in turn increased their chances of making it to the final of Sultan Azlan Shah Cup. Their coach, Stephen van Huizen is expecing his team to come up with a quality show against India.
"We'll give it our best and only then look at where we finish. We're still a long way off being among the top teams, but we aspire for a sound show against them," Van Huizen said.
Where to watch live
Sultan Azlan Shah Cup match between India vs Malaysia is scheduled for 8:35 p.m. local time (6:05 p.m IST) start. Viewers in India can watch India vs Malaysia live on Star Sports 1/HD and Star Sports 3/HD, with live streaming on starsports.com.