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India need to sharpen finishing

October 30, 2003 18:53 IST

India will need to sharpen their finishing when they take on Pakistan in the final of the Afro-Asian Games men's hockey tournament in Hyderabad on Friday.

In the semi-final against Malaysia on Wednesday, the hosts wasted chances galore and were lucky to come through via the tie-breaker. But things could be different when they meet their old foes for the second time in the tournament. Even a bit of prodigality inside the circle could prove costly.

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Although Pakistan have a better overall record, India have won four of the last seven encounters against their tradition rivals and coach Rajinder Singh has promised to keep the momentum going.

"We played good hockey yesterday which was evident from the number of chances we got. But poor finishing really gave us a scare and we would not like a repeat those mistakes tomorrow," Rajinder said.

"The two teams are almost on equal terms. Though in recent times we have won more matches against them than the other way around, an Indo-Pak contest is always a difficult proposition," he added on the eve of the match.

Certainly, Pakistan are always tough to beat. Forwards Gagan Ajit Singh, Deepak Thakur, Prabhjot  Singh and Sandeep Michael, who were guilty of squandering several gilt-edged chances in the semi-final, will have to make the best of those that come their way. Besides, India will have to score from penalty-corners, something they have been unable to do in the absence of Jugraj Singh, who is recuperating following a car accident.

This will be the third meeting between the Asian giants in the last two months. The teams met twice in the Hockey Australia Men's Challenge in May-June. In the first leg at Perth, India beat Pakistan 2-0 while in second at Sydney, the match ended in a 4-4 draw.

At the Champion's Trophy, in the league match, India defeated Pakistan 7-4, but lost in the bronze medal play-off match 3-4.

At the Asia Cup, in the league match, Pakistan defeated India 4-2, but India thrashed Pakistan 4-2 in the final to win the tournament for the first time.

Pakistan chief coach Tahir Zaman is optimistic about his team avenging recent defeats.

"We will definitely like to win against India. We have come with a few new players who are really playing good," Zaman said.

"A win against India is always special. But, moreover, the match will give some real good exposure to new players, who can't ask for anything better."