Place in the semi-final assured, India will face Japan in the Asian Champions Trophy
Assured of a berth in the semi-finals, the defending Indian champions are said to be looking to continue their winning streak when they face Japan in their final round robin match of the Asian Champions Trophy men’s hockey tournament here on Sunday.
After a slow start to the tournament, Olympic bronze medalist India returned to the five-team tournament with back-to-back wins.
Contesting their first tournament after a historic Olympic campaign, India were held to a 2-2 draw by Korea in their opener. However, the players lifted their matches in leaps and bounds to defeat hosts Bangladesh 9-0, then outscored rivals Pakistan 3-1 on Friday.
India currently leads the standings with seven points in three games ahead of Korea (5), Japan (2) and Pakistan (1).
Hosts Bangladesh are yet to put their presence on the scoresheet after losing both matches so far.
Coming to the tournament as favorites, the Indians were by far the best team among all the other teams, simply on the basis of form and world rankings.
That said, India was slow to come out of the blocks as it wasted a two-goal advantage held by Korea.
The game against Korea was a kind of wake-up call for the Indians. They looked completely different against Bangladesh, dominating the entire 70-minute game with their top display.
The game against neighbors Pakistan was expected to be a close game and it turned out to be so, albeit in the last two quarters.
India were in full control in the first two quarters, gaining the advantage in the eighth minute before doubling their lead in the 42nd minute.
India’s dominance can be measured by the fact that Pakistan failed to secure a single shot on goal in the first two quarters, leaving out penalty corners.
The game worsened after the change of sides as Pakistan came out with more determination and gave India a run for their money in the final 15 minutes.
But the Indians did not allow the Pakistanis any incursion as a superior defensive and offensive display helped them gain the upper hand.
The Indian front line has been in impressive form with artists like Lalit Upadhaya, Akashdeep Singh and Dilpreet Singh in song.
The midfielder has been maintained by skipper Manpreet Singh while responsibility for the baseline rests on Vice-Captain Harmanpreet Singh.
In fact, young Indian goalkeeper Suraj Karkera put in a superb performance under the goal post and repeatedly prevented Pakistan from maintaining their lead on Friday.
According to recent fixtures, India has an advantage over Japan after beating them 5-3 in their last meeting at the Tokyo Olympics.
But records and rankings don’t matter in international hockey, because a bad day at the office can always ruin all the hard work spent.