Dhaka, Oct 14 (IANS) India will face arch-foes Pakistan in a battle that will determine the top placement in Pool A of the Asia Cup at the Maulana Bhashani National Hockey Stadium here on Sunday.
The Sjoerd Marijne-coached India have so far stormed to the top of the pool with two easy wins over Japan (5-1) and hosts Bangladesh (7-0) in the first two matches. They will be aiming to continue to pump in more goals with their forwards in very good form.
On the other hand, Pakistan on Friday dropped two points after Japan held them 2-2. The record world champions had earlier drubbed Bangladesh 7-0.
At the Hero Hockey World League Semi Final in London, India had thrashed their neighbours 7-1 in the pool stage and followed it up with a 6-1 win in the classification match.
However, for India captain Manpreet, resting on past laurels is not the way forward.
“What happened in London is history for us now. We did well there but to repeat similar results we want to focus on our game,” Manpreet said.
The clashes against Pakistan are of bigger proportions. But the midfielder said his team’s focus will be to top the pool table and to do that they want to make sure they come up with an overall performance against Pakistan.
“For hockey lovers, India vs Pakistan is always a great game to watch. For us, we want to play them as any other opponent. We want to focus on our strategies against them and ensure we get onto a good start and not concede early goals,” the 25-year-old stated.
While the Indian forward line of S.V. Sunil, Akashdeep Singh, Ramandeep Singh and Lalit Upadhyay has showcased excellent form, the team continues to work hard on penalty corner conversion.
“I don’t think our penalty corner conversation is bad. Yes, we missed a few chances but you must also acknowledge that Bangladesh defence was good,” Manpreet pointed out.
Meanwhile Pakistan skipper Muhammad Irfan insisted that the current team is different from the one in London and is hopeful of a good show on Sunday.
“What happened in London was different. I am aware we lost two back-to-back matches against India but the present Pakistan team is different with a few of the senior players making a comeback,” he said.
“Our management has changed and I am confident we will put up a good show where hockey lovers from across the world will enjoy the match,” expressed the 27-year-old.
Pakistan are second on the table, while Japan have one point. The Japanese are expected to have an easy game against Bangladesh. Hence, Pakistan will aim to at least earn a draw against India in order to advance to the second round.
“It is a must-win game for us otherwise we know it will come down to the match between Japan and Bangladesh and if Japan beat the hosts by a big margin then we are in trouble,” emphasised Irfan.
He rued the chances his forwards missed against Japan but is hopeful they won’t make the same mistakes against India.
“We watched the video of the match against Japan. There were easy chances that we missed but we don’t want to repeat the same mistake against India. They are a strong team with good strategies but we want to focus on our individual skills,” he added.