India face Pakistan in virtual semifinal of hockey

Updated: 08 September 2011 17:17 IST

Still not assured of a place in the summit clash, an unbeaten 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 on Friday.

India face Pakistan in virtual semifinal of hockey

Ordos:

Still not assured of a place in the summit clash, an unbeaten 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 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 could also 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 having six in their kitty. That means going into Friday's games all four teams are in with a chance of entering the final.

Thus, Friday's match against Pakistan becomes a virtual semi-final for India.

India can afford a draw provided Malaysia beat Japan. The Indians could then sneak into the final on a better goal average, that too if Korea beat China, the lowest ranked team in the tournament.

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 mince no words when he said that there would be huge pressure on his wards in Friday's game.

"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 then 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," Nobbs added.

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.

Against Japan, the Indians conceded a last-minute equaliser and against Malaysia they threw away a goal lead and then had to fight hard to secure a 2-2 draw.

Although India's form has fluctuated in the tournament so far, but to not lose a game is an achievement considering teams like Korea have lost twice while Pakistan once.

But apart from inexperience, Nobbs' main concern going into the match would be penalty corner conversion. India have earned short corners at will in the event but the conversion rate has been below par.

And the Australian would be looking forward to his two ace drag-flickers - Rupinder Pal Singh and V Raghunath - to deliver the goods against Pakistan.

Both India and Pakistan have gone through wholesale changes and have come here with a young and relatively inexperienced teams.



Topics : Hockey India Pakistan
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