India take on Japan in semis

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> India will look forward to maintain their form when they meet Japan in the semifinals of the seventh men's Asia Cup hockey tournament on Saturday.

Updated: September 08, 2007 10:25 IST
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With a rare all-win record in pool stage, defending champions India will look forward to maintain their form when they meet Japan in the semifinals of the seventh men's Asia Cup hockey tournament in Chennai on Saturday.

The hosts remained the lone team to maintain their slate clean among 11 teams and topped the tough six-team Pool B.

India gained maximum 15 points, a feat which should put them in good stead in the crucial stage of the meet.

In the other semifinal, Korea, runners-up in Pool B, take on youngster-packed Malaysia, who topped Pool A with three wins and a draw against Pakistan.

The eighth-ranked Indians' performance has impressed one and all.

After overcoming China 1-0 in a closely-fought tie, the Indians brought out their best against Korea, winning the match 3-2. The major factor behind these wins was the cohesion and understanding among the players.

The hosts, who have scored 46 goals so far in the tournament, gained useful match practice in the reminder of the league phase while helping themselves on the way to equalling the Asia Cup record for the highest margin of victory when they swamped a hapless Sri Lanka 20-0.

The frontline consisting of Prabhjot Singh, who scored the match-winner against Korea, Tushar Kandeker, Rajpal Singh and S V Sunil has done exceedingly well and some of the forays made by them were breathtaking.

Ignace Tirkey in the role of a playmaker and William Xalxo at the deep defence have exhibited admirable skills.

Veteran Dilip Tirkey has also helped the team in vital moments. The tournament has also provided opportunity for Chief Coach Joaquim Carvalho to give exposure to the youngsters on the bench.

Drag-flicker Raghunath has also seemed to have found his touch despite his initial fumbles while converting penalty corners, an area where Indians have been found wanting.

Raghunath, brought into the team in place of injured Sandeep Singh, succeeded in converting six of the 11 penalty corners in the match against Thailand yesterday which could serve as a morale-booster ahead of the semifinal.

On the other hand, Japan would use their pace to make up for the gulf in skills. With their morale held high after shocking three-time winners Pakistan, the Japanese are expected to come out with a stubborn performance and thwart the Indians on home turf.

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