The time for talk is over, India to meet South Korea in the first semi-final of Incheon Asian Games. This game and the subsequent grand final (if India go through) are two critical games for Indian hockey and coach Terry Walsh.
Failure is not really an option. The Indian line-up has the best players they have to offer, all rebel World Series Hockey players available and no other hockey association interfering this time.
India's Asian Games squad has players with world class experience from the Hockey India League. This team is the best prepared, has an experienced support staff, and the biggest investment ever spent on coaches. Should India expect anything less than gold?
Well, sport is sport and anything can happen on the day; but as the top teams in world hockey consistently perform at a consistent level and have similar programmes, their associations expect and demand results. It's time India do the same.
Now, looking at the game, South Korea are ranked 8th in the world and I feel they had the easier pool. So as it happened, they remain untested. India have had a tougher time in the group games and should have benefited from these, ironing out some of the weaknesses and problems they have in attack and defence.
The pool games did give them that opportunity; however, I felt whilst at times they showed brilliance, at other times displayed very average hockey and overall still making the same errors. But there have been some shining lights in the Indian campaign so far. PR Sreejesh has started displaying some outstanding goal-keeping form. If India were to have any chance of winning gold, Sreejesh needs to continue in this vain.
Gurbaj Singh has displayed outstanding skills but little seems to come from his use of those. He has produced many crosses and penetrations into the circle but with very little result. India's forwards have been missing in action.
Birender Lakra has been the unsung hero, an outstanding and steady player who values possession, with the ability to score field goals, plus rock solid in defence.
Rupinderpal Singh, hopefully, has recovered from his injury and surely needs to play in semifinal against South Korea. He has the ability to marshal the defence with precious conversion rate on penalty corners, and it will be hard for India to win without him.
An interesting fact is that India don't figure high up in the top goal-scorers list in this competition. In fact, Rupinderpal and VR Raghunath are both ranked 5th and 7th in goals scored off PCs. This highlights India's inability to convert chances. On the other hand, South Korea have the leading goal-scorer as well as third and fourth, showing they have a formidable strike force.
India's strikers can no longer afford to remain missing in action. SV Sunil, Ramandeep Singh, Akashdeep Singh, Nikin Thimmaiah and Gurwinder Singh Chandi will really need to show that they deserve to be in the team. Their job is to score goals, which unfortunately isn't happening at the moment.
However, if skipper Sardar Singh and Rupinderpal, Lakra, Manpreet Singh and Raghunath play to their potential then India will be unbeatable. If India beat South Korea and Pakistan get the better of Malaysia in the second semi-final, we will be licking our lips at another India-Pakistan encounter, and that too in the grand final. I am sure it's an added incentive for India to beat Korea, allowing them a chance to take revenge from the archrivals for their pool-stage defeat.
Give your best India, show us that you have the courage to 'dare to win'.
Firstpost is now on WhatsApp. For the latest analysis, commentary and news updates, sign up for our WhatsApp services. Just go to Firstpost.com/Whatsapp and hit the Subscribe button.
Updated Date: Sep 29, 2014 20:03:53 IST