Hockey: Great chance for India men to return to CWG podium, start favourites against SA in semis | Commonwealth Games 2022 News

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BIRMINGHAM: India’s men’s hockey team would love their chances of at least a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games as they start as heavy favorites against lower-seeded South Africa in the first semi-final Saturday.
The Indians had the golden opportunity after South Africa stunned defending champions New Zealand in their last match to finish second in Pool A behind six-time champions Australia.
India, on the other hand, finished top of Pool B ahead of England to avoid Australia in the last four rounds.
The Indians are undefeated in the tournament so far recording three wins and one draw. South Africa, on the other hand, recorded two wins, one draw and one defeat each.
Based on current form and world stature, the world No.5 Indians will start as overwhelming favorites against world No.13 South Africa.
India vice-captain Harman Preet Singh has been in fine form, leading the scoring charts with nine goals. He converted up to eight penalty corners and scored one from the spot.
If Harmanpreet wasn’t enough, the presence of Varun Kumar, Jugraj Singh and Amit Rohidas gives India a wide range of variation in penalty corners.
While skipper Manpreet Singh and Vivek Sagar Prasad have been the backbone of India’s midfield, Nilkanta Sharma has so far impressed everyone with his performance in the tournament.
On the front line, the always reliable Mandeep Singh has been a common thread. He not only created chances but also got in the right position at the right time to score some fine poaching goals.
In Mandeep, Lalit Upadhayay, Shamcher Singh, Akashdeep Singh and Abhishek, the Indians boast a menacing strike force and the South African defense will have to play out of their skin to control them.
The only blemish for India so far in the Games has been the match against England, which they were leading 3-0 at one point before lack of concentration and indiscipline allowed the team local end the game in a 4-4 stalemate.
India would be looking to make a disciplined effort and avoid unnecessary cards, which would cost them dearly against England.
Harmanpreet said the bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics instilled the team’s self-confidence.
“We learned a lot about ourselves as a team at the Tokyo Olympics which helped us improve as a team. But first our focus is tomorrow’s game and we’re all ready,” he said.
South Africa, meanwhile, would be brimming with confidence after eclipsing higher-seeded New Zealand.
South Africa are known for staying behind and surprising their opponents with quick counterattacks.
“It doesn’t matter who we face in the semi-finals, we’re just going to focus on this game and see what happens,” said drag-flicker Connor Beauchamp.
In the other semi-final, Australia will face England.


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