London: National hockey coach Michael Nobbs is expecting a very challenging contest against New Zealand at the Riverbank Arena in the Olympic Park complex on Wednesday.
Both teams have lost their opening group B matches. While India lost to The Netherlands 3-2, the Kiwis were beaten 2-0 by the Koreans.
The Kiwis are aiming to finish second in the group and qualify for the knockout rounds. The fact that New Zealand are the defending Azlan Shah Cup champions give them some psychological advantage against India, who finished third in Kuala Lumpur in May-June.
Coach Shane McLeod, who has 20 international caps and coached New Zealand to gold at the 2009 Olympic Challenge, feels his team will adjust better to the blue turf at the Riverbank Arena.
"I don’t think there is not much to complain. The pace is much better now and the bounce is settling down," he said in an exclusive chat.
New Zealand have identified Sardar and Sandeep Singh as the men to watch out for.
"We surely have our plans for them. Sandeep is a dangerous drag-flicker and we are going to keep an eye on him," McLeod said, not willing to divulge more.
But it is not quite sure how much Nobbs is depending on Sandeep's scoring abilities alone. Against the Dutch, the burly defender came on and off the pitch a few times as India won just two penalty corner in the entire game.
Sardar revealed in an interview that Sandeep was not the only option Indian had to score from penalty corners.
"The coach wants to give an opportunity to others who are quite good at taking penalty corners. The rotational policy should work well," the mid-fielder said.
Nobbs said he was expecting a "very very tough" match against the Kiwis.
"But if we can play the way we did in the second half against the world's third best team (Holland), and take our chances, we can be unbeatable," the affable Aussie added.
Wednesday's clash will be crucial for both teams.