India is upbeat about their next match against archrival Pakistan after their two consecutive wins in the World hockey league semifinals 2015 at Antwerp, Belgium. In the first match, India defeated France by 3-2 margin and in the second match India flicked away Poland by 3-0 margin.
Today at diamond city Antwerp, a mouthwatering encounter between Asian Games Gold medalist India and Champions Trophy silver medalist Pakistan will be a high voltage encounter.
India will not be in mood to squander the chance to take the revenge of champions trophy defeat against Pakistan at home. Friday’s match is the first encounter between the sub-continental hockey rival since their clash in the tense, incident marred Champions Trophy semifinals in Bhubneswar, where some gestures during onfiled celebrations by the victorious Pakistani team lead to few suspensions.
There remains some palpable tension between the two teams about this incident. However, it is expected that both side would showcase some attractive style of South East Asian hockey. A win in the preliminary pool match will pave the way for India and Pakistan to get favourable quarterfinal draw.
India captain Sardar Singh said even though their Rio Olympic berth is secured, they want to win the game against Pakistan before the World League Finals, to be played at home late in the year.
“We want to win against Pakistan ahead of the game against World Champions Australia the next day,” roared Sardar.
Before the Hockey World League (HWL) semifinal round begun, Indian hockey custodian PR Sreejesh had said to Hindustantimes, “for me our clash against Pakistan will be the most waited.”
India already confirmed their 2016 Rio Olympic by defeating Pakistan in the final of the Asian Games at Incheon last year.
India will be in buoyant mood after crossing the hurdle of France by winning match 3-2 margin in their opening encounter and in their second match a much improved India breached down the Poland’s defense for three times on Tuesday at Brasschaat Municipal Park.
Indian midfielder Lalit Upadhyay after registering the thumping victory over Poland said they were looking forward to their coming pool A encounters against Pakistan and Australia.
“While we won the first two matches, the next two against Pakistan and Australia are the ones we are looking forward to,” Upadhyay said in a release.
“We have been delivering as a unit and ensuring that we do not give up ball possession easily. Our target from here is to take a clean sweep in the pool phase.” Upadhyay further added.
Unlike India, Pakistan struggled to beat Poland by 2-1 margin, and in their second encounter Australia hammered them by 6-1margin.
However, India’s penalty corner attempts made little impression in this tournament so far in the absence of injured drag flicker Rupinder Pal Singh, although, stand-in shooter Manpreet Singh scored a goal in the opening fixture.
But, India’s Dutch coach Van Ass confirmed that Rupindar will play the next game against Pakistan. “Rupinder will play the next game,” Van Ass confirmed.
Rupinder sustained an injury during the warmup games in Antwerp, after coming in as a replacement for VR Raghunath in the originally chosen squad.
For Coach Van Ass the India vs Pakistan clash will be his first as India coach.
“It is going to be my first experience of an India-Pakistan hockey encounter. But, during the 2010 world cup in Delhi, I saw the excitement it causes,” said Van Ass, a former Dutch national coach.
Van Ass said he had seen current Pakistan team on television before the ongoing tournament. According to him the young Indian team is well prepared for Friday’s high voltage match.
Key Indian players are plagued by injuries, so Van Ass has to select juniors as a result India are not here in full strength.
Albeit, former Dutch national coach Van Ass is quite confident about the young brigade. He said, “the young boys always give lots of energy.”
Pakistan coach Shahnaz Sheikh
In comparison to India, Shahnaz Sheikh coached Pakistan is a well settled team as he has not changed his lineup since the Incheon Asian Games and the Champions Trophy at Bhubaneswar last year. .
“We have a lot at stake in this tournament,” said Shahnaz, seeking to play down the controversy about over-the-top celebrations that followed the last encounter between the two neighbours.
“Let bygones be bygones and let’s put up a fine exhibition of hockey,” said Shahnaz.
“We want to win this one to improve our position in the group and get a good draw in the quarterfinals,” said Shahnaz.
For Pakistan this tournament will be their last opportunity to qualify for 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games. Pakistan have played at every Olympic since their first appearance in 1948, but they failed to feature in 2014 World Cup, an event that they have won more than any other country.
Three Olympic qualification spots are available to the top-placed teams from this competition, but some sides ranked slightly lower may also get a chance if any of the countries also feature in the five places available to winners of continental tournaments.
The top three teams in this tournament will also advance to the World League Final in India in December.