Inching closer to their aim of a top-two finish at the Hockey World League Semi-Final, the Indian men's hockey team will take on Malaysia in their quarter-final match here on Thursday.
While India went down 1-3 to The Netherlands, Malaysia scored an astounding 5-1 win against China in their last Pool A match on Tuesday.
Though India are ranked higher, Chief Coach Roelant Oltmans's men must guard themselves against complacency when they square off with Malaysia who can be a 'tricky opponent'.
Not so long ago, at the 26th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup earlier this year, Malaysia dented India's chances of entering the summit clash with a 1-0 win. India had to settle for the Bronze with England making the Final by the virtue of goal difference.
"Malaysia is a good side and no opponent can be taken lightly," emphasised Chief Coach Oltmans ahead of the encounter.
India remained unbeaten in the tournament until Tuesday, with strong wins against Scotland (4-1), Canada (3-0) and Pakistan (7-1). In the 1-3 loss against The Netherlands, India faltered at the start but staged a strong fightback with a spectacular goal by Akashdeep Singh in the second quarter which brought hope. It is also encouraging that India did not concede any goal in the third and fourth quarter.
"I think we did well after a poor start. I am also pleased with the way our defence stood up to the challenge especially the goalkeepers who were probably facing the Dutch side for the first time since they came into the senior squad," expressed Oltmans.
Other than beating China on Tuesday, Malaysia have tasted success against Korea 1-0 and have lost matches against Argentina (2-5) and England (3-7). But against India, they have often given a good contest.
It is encouraging for India that their forwards have stitched together great work in converting goals with Akashdeep Singh showcasing sublime form. He is presently the third highest goal scorer in the tournament behind Argentina's Gonzalo Peillat (11) and England's Sam Ward (7). He has scored five goals for the team with Harmanpreet Singh scoring three goals and Ramandeep Singh and Talwinder Singh scoring two each.