New Delhi: If India's performance in the first match against Australia - where they fought valiantly before going down 3-4 - is anything to go by, Danish Mujtaba's boys should be the favourites to bag three points when they take on Korea in their second match of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh, Malaysia, on Sunday.
Defender Rupinder Pal Singh and goalkeeper PR Sreejesh performed way ahead of others in the team on Saturday after being 3-0 down at one stage. Rupinder looked in striking form with his drag flicks, scoring twice off as many penalty corners. Sreejesh, on the other hand, kept the Australian attacks at bay for most of the first half before India conceded to trail 0-1 at half-time.
Indian midfield, though, sorely missed their regular skipper and star midfielder Sardar Singh - losing possession repeatedly. Stand-in skipper Danish too looked off colour which prevented India from weaving meaningful moves. Youngster Nithin Thimmaih and Mandeep Singh played well in the forward line but their inexperience showed in sloppy finishing and inability to win penalty corners.
Though India went down 3-4 to Australia, their fighting performance makes them the favourites in the second game against Korea on Sunday.
Korea lost their first game as well, where they were upset 2-3 by hosts Malaysia. The Koreans too are in the rebuilding phase but have more experienced players in their squad than India, who are using this tournament as an opportunity to blood youngsters in preparation for the Junior World Cup later this year at home.
India defence needs to be at guard against drag-flicker Nam Hyun Woo, who scored against Malaysia as well. But the Koreans are also particularly lethal on their counter-attacks with their speedy legs.
The overall outlook, therefore, suggests the game could be won or lost on penalty corners - with the set pieces and drag flickers being the biggest strength of both the teams.