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India eager to wrap up hockey series against Japan tomorrow


Bhubaneswar: Back to winning ways, a confident Indian men’s hockey team would look to seal the four-match Test series against Japan when they lock horns in the third game at the Kalinga Stadium here tomorrow.

After a 1-1 draw in the series opener, India won the second game 2-0 yesterday.

India scored two field goals through SK Uthappa and Dharamvir Singh to register their first win in the series.

Skipper Sardar Singh, who stole the show in the midfield yesterday, will look to continue his impressive work.

Under the watchful eyes of chief coach Paul van Ass, Indian players are working on a variety of strategies and team combinations ahead of the Hockey World League semifinal to be held in Antwerp, Belgium from June 20 to July 5.

The series against Japan, which is being organised as preparation for the Belgium event, brought to the forefront good performances from young players like Uthappa, Dharamvir and Walmiki.

Local hero and hard-working Birendra Lakra as usual is leading the fragile Indian backline but what could be a concern for Van Ass is the form of his dragflick experts VR Raghunath and Rupinderpal Singh.

“We played better in the second match but failed to utilise many opportunities. We are now in process of rectifying our mistakes. In tomorrow’s match, we need to create more opportunities and convert the penalty corners into goals,” said India’s Dutch coach Van Ass.

Japan, on the other hand, will have to plan some out-of-the-box strategies to give a tough competition to the home team.

Penalty corner conversion is a big worry for Japan as they haven’t converted a single set piece in the series.

“India were better than us in the second match and this was the only reason we lost. We did lots of mistakes and lost many opportunities. We need to change our game plan for tomorrow’s match,” Japan coach Keonwook Kang said.

A win tomorrow will give India an unassailable 2-0 lead in the four-Test series.

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