India managed to tick a lot of the right boxes in the 8-0 thrashing of Japan a couple of nights ago. But it just didn’t come when it mattered in the World Cup. Now with a chance to seal the 9th place, India will take on South Africa here at the Birsa Munda International Stadium on Saturday.
As Graham Reid put it, ‘the job is only half done’ as the home side continues to play for pride. In the win over Japan, the vulnerabilities in midfield and defence were still on show in the opening 30 minutes. Reid would want to snuff out the ‘oxygen’ (read counterattacks) of the opposition and get a commanding win.
India beat South Africa in their last three meetings since 2022. India won the first two matches with an identical scoreline of 10-2 but in the Commonwealth Games semifinal, South Africa ran Graham Reid’s side close in what was a 2-3 defeat. Goalkeeper Gowan Jones saved 11 of the 13 shots that came his way and the Indian attackers will need to get their radars right and have some luck go their way, too. India cancelled its scheduled training on the eve of the game.
The three field goals and five penalty corner goals with both Abhishek and Harmanpreet Singh firing, respectively, the team would have got some much-needed confidence after the disappointment of its early exit.
South Africa coach Cheslyn Gie said his team is relishing the prospect of challenging the hosts in its own backyard and hopes it would serve as a valuable experience for his young players. South Africa got its first win of the tournament on Friday when it beat Malaysia 6-3.
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