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Mandeep keen to break 9-year Azlan Shah drought


IANS Ipoh (Malaysia)
After securing their berth in the final of the 28th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup with one match remaining in the pool stages, the Indian men's hockey team is upbeat and confident of finishing the tournament as champions.
Speaking on the eve of their final group game against Poland, forward Mandeep Singh who has been in top form throughout the tournament believes the team is looking forward to putting their best foot forward in the remaining two matches to win the Sultan Azlan Shah trophy for the first time since 2010.
"We do know we have qualified for the final. But it does not mean we are going to take it lightly against Poland. We are determined to keep performing to the best of our abilities and to win our remaining two matches based on good performances," said Mandeep.
On the prospect of playing Korea in the final match after the two teams drew their pool match 1-1, he said: "We know Korea is a strong side, but we are doing everything to minimise errors. It is going to be our first final of 2019, and we are all well prepared to face them. We have learnt a lot about them from our 1-1 draw in the pool stages, and I feel tomorrow's match against Poland will also give us a chance to prepare well for the final."
Speaking about the areas on which his team has focused, Mandeep said, "We have had a good tournament, so far, as we have 10 points from our four matches. But we would have liked to get all the 12 points on the board. We have tried to improve as a unit and being a part of the forward line, I feel we have focused on making more circle penetrations, getting more shots on target and regaining possession quickly. If we can execute all these perfectly in the next two matches, I am sure we can finish with the gold medal."
The young forward has scored five goals in four matches, including a hat-trick against Canada on Wednesday. But Mandeep credited the team for creating the opportunities for him.
"I think the job of a striker is the easiest when you are in good form, and right now I feel like I am playing well. The credit for my goals obviously goes to my teammates who create the opportunities and space for me to do my bit. My focus during the matches when we are attacking is always on positioning myself correctly so that whenever there is a chance, I can make the most of it by converting it into a goal for my team," he said.

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First Published: Mar 28 2019 | 3:54 PM IST

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