INDIA FACE PAK TEST
Ordos (China): Still not assured of a place in the summit clash, India will not settle for anything less than a victory when they take on arch-rivals Pakistan in the final group match of the inaugural Asian Champions Trophy hockey tournament here on Friday.
On paper, the high-voltage Indo-Pak encounter might be just a group match, but in reality it is a showdown between two traditional rivals out to annex a spot in Sunday’s final. Although a draw against Pakistan also could see them through to the final, the young Indian team would like to avoid such a scenario as then their fate will rest on the outcome of other matches.
Pakistan are on top of the table with nine points followed by India with eight. Japan are third on seven points with Korea stationed fourth, with six in their kitty. That means going into Friday’s games, all four teams are in with a chance to make the final. Thus, the match against Pakistan becomes a virtual semifinal for India.
India can afford a draw provided Malaysia beat Japan. The Indians could then sneak into the final on better goal average, that too if Korea beat China, the lowest-ranked team in the event. On the other hand, if India beat Pakistan, goal averages would also count for Pakistan and Korea.
Considering all the permutations and combinations, the safest bet for India thus would be to beat Pakistan. The match would also give India an opportunity to avenge their 1-3 loss to Pakistan in this year’s Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh, Malaysia.
And expectedly, India coach Michael Nobbs minced no words when he said that there would be huge pressure on his wards. “For me as a coach, this is the first opportunity to play against Pakistan and that is really exciting. But for the team it is a big step. There is going to be huge pressure and it would be interesting to see how the boys cope with it,” he said. “It’s all about the young boys. It’s a dream match for them and if you win the reward is a place in the final. I won’t be way of the mark if I say nobody gave us a chance of even being in the reckoning. So for the team and the boys, it’s a great moment.”
India, at the moment, are unbeaten in the tournament with two draws and two wins. But pressure and inexperience has already played a role in the tournament for the Indians, especially against Japan and Malaysia where the defence crumbled in the dying minutes of the matches.
Indian eves succumb to 3rd straight loss: Meanwhile, the Indian women’s hockey team crashed to their third consecutive defeat, losing to China 0-4 under cold and windy conditions in their last group match at the Asian Champions Trophy here. India, who lost to Korea and Japan in their first two matches, will now play Japan for the bronze medal match on Saturday. Earlier, Korea beat Japan 1-0 to finish second in the group and will meet China in Saturday’s final. PTI
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