Defending champions India will face Japan in the semi-final of the men's Asian Hockey Champions Trophy 2018 at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex in Muscat, Oman on Saturday. India are unbeaten in the tournament and topped the pool standings with 13 points in the round-robin stage from five matches. Out of the five matches, India won four and the match against Malaysia ended in a draw. This is the second time that India and Japan will be playing against each other in the tournament. In the round-robin encounter, world no. 5 India displayed a dominant performance, registering a 9-0 victory against the Asian Games gold medallist.
In the past 12 meetings between the two teams, India have won 11 times, and one match ended in a draw.
India have not lost to Japan, the Asian Games 2018 Gold Medallist, since the 2013 men's Asian Champions Trophy where Yoshihara Heita scored twice for Japan to register a historic 2-1 victory.
India started the competition with an 11-0 victory over hosts Oman, and then came from behind to defeat arch-rivals Pakistan 3-1 in their second match.
However, due to several missed chances, India were held to a 0-0 draw by Malaysia in their fourth match of the tournament. But they bounced back in style, beating South Korea 4-1 to march into the semi-finals.
Captain Manpreet Singh, who scored a stunning individual goal against Pakistan, believes that his team has the chance to peak at the right time.
"I think in the recent tournaments we have played this year, we have always started the competitions well but we have not been able to finish as well as we would have liked," Manpreet said.
"With an eye on the Odisha Hockey Men's World Cup Bhubaneswar 2018, this semi-final encounter against a good Japanese side will give us the chance to peak at the correct time, and book a place in the final," the 26-year-old said.
"We know that we go into the match as the favourites but that doesn't mean anything if we don't perform on the field. We will be ready to fight for every duel and every ball, and we will look to start the match well," the Indian skipper said.
The India vs Japan match will start at 22:40 IST.
(With IANS inputs)