The 11th season of the Men’s Hockey Asia Cup begins today (Monday) in Jakarta, Indonesia, with Pakistan taking on arch-rivals India in a group A match, according to The News.
In other action today, Oman and Malaysia will face off after the former’s success in the Asian Games Qualifier in Thailand, and Asian Champions Trophy champions Korea will face Bangladesh in Pool B contests.
In addition, defending Asian Games champions Japan will meet the hosts Indonesia.
Khawaja Junaid, the manager of Pakistan’s hockey team, stated that the Green Shirts will play with the World Cup in mind.
“We will not come under pressure of any team. Our players won’t think about the high ranking of other teams or their experience of international hockey,” he said.
Both India and Japan have good teams with seasoned players, according to Junaid, but Pakistan coach Siegfried Aikman has schooled his men to match the strengths of their opponents.
“Our players will go all out against India and Japan and try their best level efforts to surprise them and secure a berth in the World Cup,” he said.
India has picked a young team led by Birendra Lakra and SV Sunil, both of whom have extensive experience. Simranjeet Singh, a star performer at the Tokyo Olympics, returns after a long injury layoff. Sardar Singh, a two-time Olympian and former captain will serve as the team’s coach.
Speaking on the eve of their opening match against Pakistan, both Lakra and Sunil stressed the need to guide the youngsters in the high-pressure game. “Pressure is always there (against Pakistan). Any match against Pakistan is always a high-voltage one,” Sunil said.
“As seniors, we can’t be too excited, (because) then the junior players will come under pressure. So, we need to take it as a normal match,” he added.
Sunil said, “No team can be taken lightly. Everyone is here to earn a place in the World Cup next year and as defending champions, our focus will be on putting up our best show.”
Lakra said: “Both the teams are young. For us, it is important to go match by match. If the performance is good results will definitely come. If we perform well the confidence level will be high.”
The game will be broadcast live on the PHF website.
India and Pakistan last met at the Asian Champions Trophy in 2021, with India taking bronze with a 4-3 victory.
India, the world’s third-ranked squad, has been assigned to Pool A alongside Pakistan, Japan, and hosts Indonesia, and will face Pakistan in the final match of the first day’s program. Malaysia, South Korea, Oman, and Bangladesh are in Pool B of the eight-team competition.
After being postponed last year because to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Asia Cup is being contested after a two-year hiatus. The top three teams from the Asia Cup will advance to the FIH Hockey World Cup, which will be hosted in Bhubaneswar and Rourkela next year. As the hosts, India has already qualified for the World Cup.
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