Champions Trophy: India plays Netherlands with final berth at stake

A draw will be enough for India to move into the final; a defeat will send Netherlands through.

India has a realistic chance of clinching its maiden title, thanks to a solid early run.   -  PTI

India needs to avoid defeat in its last match in the round-robin stage — against Netherlands — to move into the final of the Champions Trophy.

India is currently placed second in the points table with seven points from two wins, one loss and a draw. Defending champion Australia sits at the top of the table, and has already secured a berth for Sunday’s summit clash. As per the rules of the six-nation tournament, the top two teams from the round-robin stage will play the final.

For Netherlands, though, the challenge is tougher. Only a victory can ensure its place in the final.

The other match of the day is a dead rubber — in-form Australia will be the favourite when it takes on Argentina, the Olympic champion.

Strong start

Under the guidance of new coach Harendra Singh, India could not have asked for a better start to its campaign. The Indians mauled arch-rival Pakistan 4-0 before stunning Argentina 2-1. India faltered thereafter; it lost to Australia 3-2 after a valiant fight before conceding a late goal to draw 1-1 against Belgium on Thursday.

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The strikers have been in good form in this tournament, but the injury to Ramandeep Singh is a big blow to the group. The likes of Mandeep Singh, Dilpreet Singh and Lalit Upadhyay have lived up to expectations but S. V. Sunil looked a pale shadow of himself.

Secure Sreejesh

The defenders have been competent as well, but they were exposed by Belgium and Australia, against whom they seemed to crumble under pressure. The experienced P. R. Sreejesh has fiercely guarded the goal, however, and perhaps it is solely through his vigilance that India escaped with a draw against Belgium.

India’s major cause for concern would be its penalty corner conversion rate. Despite earning a handful of penalty corners in the last four games, India converted just three through Harmanpreet Singh. And Harendra would need to address these issues if India wants to win its maiden Champions Trophy title in the last edition of the tournament.

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