The stage is set for the final day of matches at the 28th edition of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.
India and Korea will face each other in the final while hosts Malaysia take on Canada for the bronze as Japan battle it out with Poland to avoid the wooden spoon.
India and South Korea have met in the final once in 2010. But heavy rain made the match unplayable and both teams were declared joint winners.
Thus, today’s match will be in many ways a chance to complete some unfinished business.
India has five titles to date having won them in 1985, 1991, 1995, 2009 and then finally in 2010.
They also made the final two more times.
In 2008 they were defeated by Argentina while in 2016 they lost to Australia.
The final on Saturday will be their eighth final.
as for Korea they were outright winners in 1996 and then jointly with India in 2010.
They also made the final in 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2005. But on each occasion they ended up as bridesmaid.
They want to win the final and both have been the better teams in the tournament.
India are ranked fifth in the world while the Koreans are at number 17.
Their preliminary round match ended in a 1-1- draw.
Indian skipper Manpreet Singh said that they had a great chance to bag the title if they keep to the structure.
“The Koreans are a good team and play with speed. But we have a plan and if the players stick to it, then we can match them. One of the good things I see in this team is the ability to score field and penalty corner goals.
“This is far from being our best team, but they have blended well, and we see a great match ahead. I would like to see an exciting game but hopefully we can get an upper hand against the Koreans,” he said.
The Koreans who have seen a decline in recent years are hoping that a win here will be the catalyst for their resurgence.
Korean coach Shin Seok-kyu, who was also the coach in 2010, said that Korea needs a title badly.
“It is for the individual players, the team and the Korean Federation. I am sure a win here will wake up the hockey fraternity back home and provide greater support
“India is a good team and very strong individually. They have also developed a fast style and will be strong defensively.
A podium finish awaits Malaysia or Canada as they clash for a second time in 24 hours.
For Malaysia and Canada, the tournament offers a chance to gauge each other ahead of the World series final in Kuala Lumpur next month.
Malaysia ended the preliminary round with three wins while Canada had two.
On Friday the Malaysians defeated Canada 3-2.
Malaysia has a good attacking play but often at the other end, give away too many chances.
Malaysian coach Roelant Oltmans is convinced that they can play better hockey and take the second match as well.
“We won this match and tomorrow will be a different altogether. We will analyse the match and see what sort of changes needed to be done.
“The performance in this match was better than what we achieved against South Korea. So that is an improvement,” he added.
Canadian coach Paul Bundy said that it will be a close match and that the chances that come will be few at both ends.
“It was a good first match and we are looking forward to round two. The Malaysians use their individual skills to good use and were strong in the third and fourth quarters. We will have to look at our game plan again and see how to contain them in the next match,” he said.
In their last preliminary round match against Canada, the Malaysians opened the scoring in the sixth minute through Mohamed Firhan Azhaari from a field attempt. Mohamed Razie Rahim added the second from their first penalty corner in the 17th minute.
Malaysia’s second penalty corner in the 23rd minute was also fruitful. It resulted in a penalty stroke which was duly converted by Fitri Saari.
Gordon Johnston scored both Canada’s goals off the penalty corner in the 15th and 22nd minutes.
Meanwhile the fifth placing play-off match is the final chance for Poland to snatch a win in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.
The tournament debutants will play Japan in the playoff match.
They had lost all five matches in the preliminary round.
The Polish team were a last-minute replacement for South Africa and their lack of preparations was obvious.
In the preliminary round, Japan managed to win 3-0.
Japan coach Siegfried Aikman said he wants the team to finish on a winning note.
“We must win this match and make sure that we do not lose our grip on the match. We have beaten them before and there is no reason why we cannot do it again.
“It will be tough playing under the humid conditions, but we need to be prepared for any condition.”
Against India in the final preliminary round match, Poland was beaten 10-0.
It is the highest scoring match in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.
But the team preparing for the World series final in India in June hope to end their tournament on a winning note.
Poland coach Karol Sniezek said that the match against India was their worst performance in the tournament.
“We just could not match their speed and were left chasing their shadow. True the match was played under very humid conditions but that is no excuse for the way we played.
“The Indians are much better than us, but we are happy to have had a chance to play them. We are also in the same tournament for the World series, which is in Bhubaneswar,” he said.
Today (Saturday) Fixtures: 1535H : Poland v Japan (5/6 placing): 1805H : Malaysia v Canada (3/4 placing: 2035H: India v Korea ( Final)
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