DHAKA — India will look to continue its winning run as the team faces defending champions South Korea in the first match of the second round in the Asia Cup hockey championship here Oct. 18.
After three successive wins in the pool stage, Sjoerd Marijne's wards are prepared to begin their four-game round-robin stage (Super 4s) comprising four teams. Malaysia and Pakistan are the other teams in the second round.
South Korea is fighting a battle of its own and is facing huge pressure to qualify for the 2018 FIH World Cup.
India has registered convincing wins against Japan (5-1), Bangladesh (7-0) and Pakistan (3-1). Indian forwards S.V. Sunil, Akashdeep Singh and Ramandeep Singh are in good form and the midfielders such as S.K. Uthappa and Manpreet Singh are linking up with the defense and attack line smoothly.
Marijne has put center-half Sardar in the backline to make up for the lack of experience among the defenders and the former captain has been performing his role as a free-moving player nicely.
"We got off to a good start in the tournament though I would have liked to see a better performance against Pakistan, it's good to have won all the three matches," Marijne said Oct. 11 on the sidelines of the team's training session.
"In the Super 4s, too, we will have a similar approach, which is to take one match at a time and right now the focus is on the match against Korea," he added.
South Korea suffered one loss against Malaysia but won against China and Oman to make the Super 4s. With a good penalty corner conversion rate and high-quality counter attack, India needs to be patient, cautioned Marijne.
"It will be an interesting match. We need to be patient and have good control. It's important for us to focus on our own structure. They are good in counter and we need to be aware of that when we play against them," he added.
The last time India played South Korea was in Kuantan, Malaysia during the Asian Champions Trophy in October 2016. The match boiled down to a penalty shoot-out after they drew 2-2 in regulation time in the semi-final. India then went on to beat Pakistan in the final.
But here, South Korea will be under pressure as it is the only team in the Super 4s that has not qualified for the World Cup in Bhubaneswar, India.