Ipoh (Malaysia) : Already through to the semi-finals, an upbeat India would aim to keep their winning juggernaut rolling and end their pool engagements with a thumping victory over minnows Bangladesh in the Asia Cup, on Wednesday.
After back-to-back victories against Oman and defending champions South Korea, the Indians are brimming with confidence but they cannot afford to relax in the eight-nation tournament, which they desperately need to win to qualify for next year’s World Cup at The Hague, Netherlands.
India sealed their semi-final place after shocking title holders South Korea 2-0 in their second Pool B match at the Sultan Azlan Shah Stadium.
A win against Bangladesh would ensure India top Pool B which means they will most likely take on hosts Malaysia in the semi-finals and avoid arch-rivals Pakistan till the final hurdle.
Taming Bangladesh shouldn’t be much of a problem for Roelant Oltmans’ boys as the Tigers’ would be morally down after consecutive defeats, especially after yesterday’s 2-4 loss against Oman, a side which is five places below them in the world rankings. Bangladesh had earlier lost 0-9 to Korea in their opening tie.
For both eight-time Olympic champions India and neighbours Pakistan, it is a do-or-die tournament as one of them faces the prospect of missing out on a World Cup berth for the first time since the launch of the tournament in 1971. But having impressed all and sundry with their game so far, the Indians would be hoping to carry on the momentum to crucial classification matches.
The Indian midfield under inspirational captain Sardar Singh blossomed against the Koreans on Monday. Not only the mid-fielders, India’s ever-fragile backline too dished out a fine show yesterday and stood tall to thwart Korea’s relentless attacks.
And Oltmans would hope for similar performances from his players in the remainder of the event.
“I am very happy with the performance of all the mid-fielders. Our defenders also did very well. I am happy with the overall team performance. This is a huge experience for youngsters of our team,” Oltmans said.
It would not be fair to overlook the performance of India’s young and inexperienced forwardline which so far managed to live up to the expectations.
Young Mandeep Singh is in superb form and so far scored four goals in the tournament, including three against Oman.
Going by head-to-head record, the Indians are expected to steamroll the Bangladeshis. India defeated Bangladesh 18 times out of 19 encounters with one ending in a draw.