|Rediff India Abroad Home | All the sections|
India wary of South Korea
April 26, 2004 19:03 IST
World Junior champions India and hosts Pakistan need to clear the last hurdle for a final showdown as they play their semi-finals in the fifth Junior Asia Cup hockey tournament in Karachi on Tuesday.
Pakistan, winners of the Junior World title in 1979 failed to qualify for the 2001 Junior World Cup -- which India won for the first time -- face a relatively easier opponent in Malaysia in the first semi-final.
India meet a tough opponent in defending Asian Junior champions South Korea in the second semi-final.
"It would be a great delight for the connoisseurs of the game if Pakistan and India meet in the final but we are not taking anything for granted, for playing India in the final we need to beat Malaysia first," Pakistan coach Asif Bajwa said.
Pakistan have met Malaysia 28 times at the junior level and won 22 times, drawing four and losing only twice.
"I think our team has a good chance of reaching the final after we won with a big margin yesterday," Bajwa said.
The arch-rivals have not met on Pakistani soil at any level since a bilateral series between the senior teams was played on home and away basis in 1999.
"Playing India would be great and if we win the title with a win over India it would be an icing on the cake," Bajwa said.
Three of the four semi-finalists are assured of berths in next year's Junior World Cup in Amstelveen, The Netherlands.
Pakistan and India's superior forward lines and strike rates on penalty-corners give them edge over their rivals in the last four stage.
While Pakistan boasts of Imran Waris, who has scored nine goals in four matches, India is one step ahead as their 19-year-old penalty-corner specialist Sandeep Singh is the tournament's top scorer with 14 goals.
Both teams are led by their mercurial captains - Pakistan's Shakil Abbasi and India by Sandeep Michael - as the spearheads of the attacks.
Pakistan annihilated South Korea in the last 20 minutes of their last Group A match yesterday as they scored four goals through sparkling moves.
"We need to play like Pakistan did. South Korea is a tough opponent but we have played well in the tournament and need to keep the momentum going," Indian coach Harendra Singh said.
"The aim throughout the tournament has been to win it and enter next year's World Cup with the same aim."
In other classification matches tomorrow, China meet Japan and Bangladesh face Singapore for fifth to eighth places.