Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex, Muscat: Japan (FIH World Ranking 16) beat Pakistan (world number 13) 3-2 in the Final match of the tournament. Pakistan finished on top of their rivals in the round robin contest, but could not dominate their opponents in the finale. Japan took an early lead through a penalty corner which was converted by Koji Yamasaki. Japan doubled the lead in the 12th minute when Kazuma Murata scored past Imran Butt. Pakistan were quick to respond as Muhammad Arsalan Qadir scored in the 14th minute. The scores remained unchanged as both team tested each other in a high intensity game. Japan broke the goalless drought of two quarters and made it 3-1 when Hirotaka Wakuri scored in the 50th minute. Ali Mubashir had the final say of the match when he reduced the deficit from the penalty corner in the 56th minute of the match.
Pakistan went into the finals as group leader, winning two and drawing two of their four matches. They won the opening match of the campaign against Oman (3 – 0) and drew against Japan (2 – 2) in the following day. Japan took on Oman in the third day of the tournament and secure a 3 – 0 victory, being on level terms with Pakistan at the top of the table, mid-way through the event. Oman presented an amazing display of hockey against Pakistan in the fourth day, when they drew against Pakistan, for the first time, in a 4 – 4 goal fest. Pakistan bounced back and won the second leg of the tie against Japan, beating them by two goals to one. Japan then beat the hosts in the final match of the group stages, finishing second in the table with 7 points, one short of the group leaders, Pakistan.
A thrilling series draws to a close which displayed a healthy contest among the Asian nations stretching from the the corners of the continent. Athletes tested their limits while managers implemented their strategies, polishing it before the upcoming events in the hectic and exhilarating hockey calendar of 2018. Moreover, the hosts organized an entertaining tournament, attracting fans, followers and families alike towards the sport, which is accelerating and emerging as a world-class sport in Oman, who is also the host of the Men’s Asian Champions Trophy, taking place later this year.
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