Favourites India face Pakistan hurdle

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/h/hockey4.jpg' class='caption'> The traditional rivals meet in the Junior Asia Cup hockey semis. In the other semifinal, Japan will meet South Korea.

Updated: July 19, 2008 09:48 IST
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After the smooth sailing in the group stage, on-song India will run into traditional rivals Pakistan in Wednesday's semifinal and the hosts would have to address their poor penalty corner conversion if they are to defend the Junior Asia Cup hockey tournament.

Japan will meet pool B topper South Korea in the second semi-final at the Gachibowli Stadium.

India were hardly tested as they topped Pool A with three successive wins to send a warning to the opponents. They brushed aside Japan 2-0, tamed Malaysia 3-1 before pounding Singapore 6-0 -- scoring 11 goals, conceding only one, in the process.

Past records, however, would count for little when India lock horns with Pakistan, who finished second in Pool B.

India's facile wins, however, could not gloss over poor penalty corner conversion, their perennial Achilles' heel.

They managed five penalty corners against Japan but converted just two and it was the same story against Malaysia as well. Against Singapore, India forced as many as 13 penalty corners but only three resulted in goals.

India coach A.K. Bansal, however, assured that the team has got some different plans against the archrivals and hopefully it would work.

"Indeed, the boys need to play to their potentials, something they have not done yet," Bansal said.

The Indian camp, however, can take heart from penalty corner specialist Diwakar Ram's red hot form and the full back would have to live up to the expectations tomorrow if India are to cross this hurdle.

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