Record-setter India to face tricky Malaysia in men's hockey semis of Asiad tomorrow
Jakarta, Aug 29 (PTI) Brimming with confidence after scoring record number of goals, title holders India will be eyeing another dominant outing as they take on tricky Malaysia in the semifinal of the men's hockey competition at the Asian Games here tomorrow.
India displayed great attacking hockey in the pool stages and pumped in as many as 76 goals in five matches here to create the world record of maximum goals ever scored in a tournament.
In the 110 years of international hockey, the 76 goals is the highest-ever scored by any team in a tournament, bettering Argentina's record of 68 goals scored in Pan-Am Cup in London (Ontario-Canada) in 2004.
The defending champions were simply unstoppable as they scored thumping wins over Indonesia (17-0), Hong Kong (26-0), Japan (8-0), Korea (5-3) and Sri Lanka (20-0) to top Pool A.
And going by form and class, India will be the favourites to prevail over Malaysia, who finished second in Pool B behind Pakistan.
Barring the 1-4 loss to Pakistan, Malaysia too had a good run in the pool stages with comfortable wins over Kazakhstan (16-2), Thailand (10-0), Bangladesh (7-0) and Oman (7-0).
They might be ranked 12th in the world, but Malaysia is a team which has been a thorn in the flesh for world number five 5 India off late.
The Indians didn't have a good record against Malaysia last year, having lost to them twice, first a 2-3 defeat in the 2017 Hockey World League Semifinal in London and then the 0-1 loss in the Azlan Shah Cup.
But thereafter, the Indians enjoyed a good run against the Malaysians. It all started with the 2017 Asia Cup in Dhaka, where India defeated Malaysia 6-2 in the Super 4s and then followed it up with a narrow 2-1 win in the final to lift the Asia Cup title.
Then the Indians thrashed Malaysia 5-1 in the Azlan Shah Cup before eking out a close 2-1 win at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
The recent results, notwithstanding, chief coach Harendra Singh would be fully aware of the danger Malaysia can pose to his side, having been on the receiving end in 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games.
The Indians had played Malaysia no less than 10 times before the 2010 Asian Games but as luck would have it they recorded their first loss to the continental rival at Guangzhou.
That time too Harendra was the coach of the side and soon after the defeat he tendered his resignation, accepting moral responsibility for failing to make it to the final.
Eight years later, Harendra has got a chance to avenge that painful loss and his players would be desperate to present their coach with a fitting gift.
The Indians looked class apart in the pool stages, the only blemish being the three goals they conceded against Korea.
"Ideally we would have liked to keep a clean slate. That was the plan of our defence but we made silly defensive errors against Korea. We have watched the videos of that match again to analyse where we must correct ourselves before we take on Malaysia, who play very cautious hockey," India captain P R Sreejesh said.
"We must play with high speed and control the match from the first quarter itself to put pressure on them."
In Razie Rahim, Malaysia has got a potent penalty corner specialist and Sreejesh is aware that short corners are one of their strong points.
"We must continue with the same tempo we have shown in our attack, but we must be cautious while defending and ensure we don't give away penalty corners," Sreejesh said