Hockey poised for ‘exciting’ Indo-Pak final

Azad Majumder . Jakarta | Published: 00:05, Aug 30,2018 | Updated: 00:48, Aug 31,2018

 
 

Indian players celebrate after scoring a goal against Sri Lanka during the men’s hockey Pool A match of the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta on Wednesday. — AFP photo

The ongoing Asian Games is action-packed to say the least as many sports are being contested in and around Jakarta while many histories are being written or rewritten by many individuals or countries.
It is always difficult to single out a game from so many competitions to give it a special attention. If it happens to be a quarter-final match of a not-so-glamorous game it can always be ignored.
Yet, the men’s volleyball quarter-final match between India and Pakistan drew some attention in Jakarta due to the political rivalries of the two participating countries.
Pakistan won the game by 3-1 sets to take some consolation for its poor medal haul compared to its bitter neighbour.
The excitements of sports fans from the two countries may reach at its peak come Saturday if both of them can qualify for the final of men’s hockey with each of them being backed by long tradition and form.
India struck an astonishing 76 goal in five group matches meaning they should not face any difficulty to overcome the hurdle of Malaysia in the first semi-final today while Pakistan would also start as strong favourites against Japan in the other semi-final.
If both countries win their respective semi-final it would be a repeat of last edition’s hockey final, where India prevailed over Pakistan in penalty shootout after stipulated time ended 1-1.
A hockey final in India and Pakistan in Asian Games is not the rarity though as the two countries dominated the game in the continent for decades.
Apart from Doha Asian Games in 2006, at least one of them was always in the final while they faced each other eight times in the final. Pakistan has a strong history against Asian Games, winning six of their 12 meetings apart from two draws.
But India can take confidence from the fact three of their four wins came in the last three meetings, which coincided with their latest renaissance in hockey and Pakistan’s recent decline.
It was also reflected in the performances of the two teams in Jakarta where Pakistan could score just 45 goals in five matches against India’s 76 in group stage.
‘The form and history, however, will matter very little if they can qualify for the final,’ said K Arumugam, the editor of specialised hockey website www.stick2hockey.com.
‘The competition is now at its business end. It did not matter how they played in the group stage,’ said Arumugam. ‘If both of them can qualify for the final it should be an exciting match.’
It is now up to Malaysia and Japan to deny the Games the final it richly deserves. 

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