The Indian men's hockey team would fancy their chances of at least securing a silver medal from the Commonwealth Games 2022 as they start as the overwhelming favourites against a lower-ranked South Africa in the first semifinal in Birmingham on Saturday.
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The Indians were awarded the golden opportunity after South Africa stunned defending champions New Zealand in their final match to finish second in Pool A behind six-time champions Australia. India, on the other hand, finished on top of Pool B ahead of England to avoid Australia in last four.
The Indians have been unbeaten in the tournament so far, registering three wins and a draw. South Africa, on the other hand, have recorded two victories and a draw and a loss each. Going by current form, the world No. 5 Indians will start as overwhelming favourites against No. 13 South Africa.
India vice-captain Harmanpreet Singh has been in top form, leading the goal scorers' chart with nine goals. He converted as many as eight penalty corners and scored one from the spot. If Harmanpreet was not 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 impressed all and sundry with his display in the tournament so far. In the front line, the ever-reliable Mandeep Singh has been a livewire. He has not only created opportunities, but has also placed himself at the right position at the right time to score some fine poaching goals.
In Mandeep, Lalit Upadhayay, Shamsher Singh, Akashdeep Singh and Abhishek, the Indians boast of a threatening strike force and the South African defence will have to play out of their skin to keep them in check.
The only blot for India so far in the Games has been the match against England, which they were leading 3-0 at one stage before lapse in concentration and indiscipline allowed the home team to finish the game in a 4-4 stalemate.
India would look to put up a disciplined effort and avoid unnecessary cards, which cost them dearly against England. South Africa, meanwhile, would be brimming with confidence after upstaging higher-ranked New Zealand.
South Africa are known for sitting back and surprising their opponents with brisk counter-attacks. In the other semifinal, Australia will take on hosts England.
IND vs SA Head-To-Head
India have played South Africa 34 times so far winning 22 out of them. South emerged victorious seven times. Five matches ended in draws. The last time both teams met each other was in the FIH Pro League earlier this year where India won 10-2.
Where To Watch India Vs South Africa, Commonwealth Games 2022 Hockey Semifinal?
The India versus South Africa, Commonwealth Games 2022 hockey semifinal will be telecast live on Sony Sports Network. SONY SIX, SONY TEN 2, SONY TEN 4 & SONY TEN 3 (Hindi) channels and Doordarshan (DD Sports) will live telecast the events featuring Indian athletes and teams. Live streaming of India vs South Africa hockey semifinal will be available on SonyLIV.