India looks to stay unbeaten on road to quarterfinals

India is all but assured of a spot in the quarterfinals unless it suffers a huge defeat, which on current form looks unlikely.

"The fouls were unnecessary, we need to control our emotions. But it's better that it has happened here, we can’t afford such mistakes in the knockout stage," said Indian coach Harendra Singh (left) after the victory against England.   -  Rajeev Bhatt

New Zealand captain Brad Read is challenged by Spanish players in a Pool C match of the Junior World Cup hockey tournament at the Major Dhyanchand Stadium in Lucknow. The match ended in a 3-3 draw.   -  Rajeev Bhatt

With nine goals scored in two games so far, India would be hoping to keep the momentum as it looks to enter the business end of the Junior World Cup here with an all-win record when it takes on South Africa in its final Pool D match here on Monday.

India is all but assured of a spot in the quarterfinals unless it suffers a huge defeat, which on current form looks unlikely. The match provides a chance for India to get disciplined with both coach Harendra Singh and Roelant Oltmans accepting that the team suffered for over-excitement in both games so far.

The results have shadowed the chinks but the team knows it is there. The defence has been shaky and a tad slow to fall back after an attack, leaving space open for counterattacks. Fouls and suspensions at crucial moments, specially those that are unnecessary, are a concern. Against England, Mandeep Singh picked up a yellow card and his absence saw the opposition score twice in five minutes.

“We got a few unnecessary cards and gave away two goals in the last 10 minutes. The cards were completely unnecessary. The tackles were half down on the pitch and it occurred because of over-excitement. This is part of the learning process. These are lessons from this game which we take along,” Oltmans was blunt in his assessment.

Harendra was more sympathetic. “They are playing a World Cup and you have to accept that there will be anxiety. You have to accept that they are youngsters who wait four years for a big tournament. The fouls were unnecessary, we need to control our emotions. But it's better that it has happened here, we can’t afford such mistakes in the knockout stage,” he said.

On the positive side, the team's structure and movement improved significantly from the first game to second and the players are confident of continuing the momentum. The drag-flicking duo of defenders Harmanpreet Singh and Varun Kumar have gelled well in both departments. Armaan Qureshi, Gurjant Singh and Neelkanta Sharma have kept the feeding lines open. Mandeep Singh and Parvinder Singh have been impressive upfront, both in terms of shots on goal and earning penalty corners. Amidst all this, captain Harjeet Singh remains the beating heart of the team.

Both England and South Africa have three points and a draw would be enough for the host to retain the top spot. Even a loss may not make much difference given the big goal difference it enjoys. England is expected to be the other team to advance from the group after its last game against Canada.

A win would propel India to the top of Pool D, taking on Pool C's second-placed Spain in the quarterfinals after the latter pushed New Zealand out of contention on goal difference despite a 3-3 draw. Earlier in the day, defending champion Germany wrapped up its league engagements unbeaten with a 6-1 victory against Japan to top Pool C.

In Pool B, Belgium went on top with an emotional 3-2 win against Netherlands while Malaysia beat Egypt 2-1.

The results: Pool C: Germany 6 (Anton Boeckel 2, Constantin Staib, Ole Thies Prinz, Timm Herzbruch, Lukas Windfeder) bt Japan 1 (Ryo Ozawa); Spain 3 (Llorenc Grau Piera, Enrique Gonzalez, Jan Rosell) drew with New Zealand 3 (Sam Hiha, Jonty Keaney, Dylan Thomas). Pool B: Belgium 3 (Thomas Verheijen, Quentin van Lierde, Henri Raes) bt Netherlands 2 (Terrance Pieters, Bram van Groessen); Malaysia 2 (Zulhamizan Mohamad, Khaliq Hamirin) bt Egypt 0.

Monday's schedule: Pool A: Australia vs Austria (10 a.m.), Korea vs Argentina (12 noon); Pool B: Netherlands vs Egypt (2 p.m.), Malaysia vs Belgium (4 p.m.); Pool D: India vs South Africa (6 p.m.).