India have won back-to-back matches in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, defeating Canada and Pakistan, and they will noe be gunning for a third straight win, when they play New Zealand in Ipoh, Malaysia, Wednesday. A victory against New Zealand will inch India closer to the gold medal match, but the game is not going to be easy, as NZ are one of the stronger teams in the competition.
India come into this game with massive confidence after playing some brilliant hockey against Pakistan, which saw them win the encounter 5-1. It was an all-round performance from India, whose defenders, forwards and midfielders stuck to their task, and helped their team emerge triumphant. A similar performance should help them defeat New Zealand as well.
India have improved as the tournament has moved ahead, and the team received a boost after halfback Manpreet Singh made a return to the team. Manpreet has played an important role in the offensive end, making those pacy runs, and using his skills to get past other players, thus creating opportunities.
Coach Reolant Olmans will be eager to see him perform against New Zealand with the same venom as he did against Canada and Pakistan. The coach also spoke highly about Manpreet, who had to leave Malaysia before the first game, after his father's death.
"We're very proud of what Manpreet has done for the Indian team. You don't always see players coming back from their bereavement and playing such an outstanding match. Manprret has told us that he also had to fulfil his duty toward the team, and that the teammates are like his brothers," Press Trust of India quoted Oltmans as saying.
Besides Manpreet, Sardar Singh and SV Sunil, who scored two goals against Pakistan, will need to be at the top of their game as well.
New Zealand, on the other hand, have played better hockey than many teams in the competition. They lie in third place in the standings, and can jump to second if they defeat India.
New Zealand are one of the teams that have qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics, which comes as no surprise as they have been playing some wonderful hockey of late. They are the eighth-ranked team in the world.
With players like Nic Woods, Nick Wilson and Simon Child, who have all scored goals in the competition, they have some top-class players to leapfrog India in the standings. With both teams comprising some quality players, a cracker of a match is on the cards.
Where to watch live
Sultan Azlan Shah Cup match between India vs New Zealand is scheduled for 4:05 p.m. local time (1:35 p.m IST) start. Viewers in India can watch India vs New Zealand live on Star Sports 1/HD and Star Sports 3/HD, with live streaming on starsports.com.