MUSCAT, October 26: The semi-finals of the Hero Asian Champions Trophy Muscat 2018 at the Sultan Qaboos Stadium promise a keen fare on Saturday, with a lot at stake for the three teams heading to next month’s World Cup.
India vs Japan
Defending champions India are seeking to reinforce their position as Asia’s top-ranked team in the encounter with the recently crowned Asian Games champions Japan. Eager to assert their authority as proof that the disappointing bronze medal at Jakarta was just an aberration, India will be looking to post another victory in their second meeting with Japan.
Having induced six youngsters in the squad after their gold medal at the Jakarta Asian Games, Japan has decided to focus on a long-term team-building exercise. Not burdened by their status as the new Asian Games champions, their recent habit of turning the form-book on its head will cause some unease for the rivals.
What they say –
Harendra Singh (Coach, India): “I would like my boys to play aggressive hockey with control over their emotions. The semi-final will be a different ball game. The result or score-line of our last encounter with Japan in the preliminary league will have no significance when the semi-final gets underway on Saturday.”
Siegfried Aikman (Coach, Japan): “I have always said that India will have an edge nine times out of our 10 encounters. We’re hoping that Saturday will be that one time when we go out and defeat them. Our performance in the preliminary league, including the loss to India, is history now. My young players have grown in confidence.”
Pakistan vs Malaysia
Two-time winners of this title, Pakistan go into the semi-final against Malaysia with their confidence boosted from the solitary-goal victory over Asian Games silver medallists Malaysia in the last league match of the Hero Asian Champions Trophy Muscat 2018 on Thursday. Meeting the same team within two days can prove to be a tricky affair and Pakistan are aware that Malaysia is a tough opponent. Pakistan also draws confidence from their league stage win over Malaysia during the Asian Games in Jakarta. Malaysia went on to claim an Asian Games silver medal behind Japan, while Pakistan finished fourth.
Pakistan faces an injury problem after their captain Mohammad Rizwan’s hamstring forced him to limp out of the pitch on Thursday.
What they say-
Hasan Sardar (Manager, Pakistan):
“Winning the league match against Malaysia was a good confidence booster for the boys, but everyone has to start afresh now. We’re playing well as a unit, yet we continue to miss a lot of chances. There are some things that require attention ahead of the semi-finals. We’ve done some work on our defense, which is now playing a disciplined game.”
Roelant Oltmans (Coach, Malaysia):
“We’ve not conceded many goals. In two games against India and Pakistan, the two teams who have won this title before, we conceded just one goal. We need to take our chances and make the best use of the openings we create.”