Confident India eye revenge against Japan

| | Jakarta
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Confident India eye revenge against Japan

Saturday, 28 May 2022 | PTI | Jakarta

Having risen like a proverbial phoenix from the ashes, a rejuvenated  Indian men's hockey team would like to put up a much-improved performance when it takes on Japan in its first 'Super 4' match of the Asia Cup here on Saturday.

Despite facing a below-par Indonesia in its final group league game, the young side coached by Sardar Singh must be lauded for being able to score a whopping 16 goals in just an hour.

It was one more than what India required to put a final nail in Pakistan's coffin as far as harbouring World Cup qualification hopes were concerned.

Both India and Pakistan finished on four points each in Pool A behind Japan but the defending champions qualified for the next round due to better goal difference (+1).

But it was not a smooth sailing for India in the first two matches.

Having already qualified for next year's World Cup by virtue of being the hosts, India fielded an inexperienced team with as many as 12 debutants for the tournament to gain much-needed experience.

The young boys did not have the best of starts drawing 1-1 with Pakistan before losing 2-5 to Japan, which pushed them on the brink of elimination.

But the Indians were in no mood to bow out without a fight even as they stood at the point of no return. They staged a dramatic turnaround to keep alive their hopes of title defence.

They were also aided by Japan, who beat Pakistan 3-2 in their final match.

Their first goal achieved, the Indians would like to start afresh in the Super 4 stage, where Japan, South Korea and Malaysia are the other three teams. All the teams will play each other with the top two progressing to the final. Revenge would be high on India's agenda having lost to the Japanese in the pool stages.

But it would be easier said than done as the nimble-footed Japanese rely mostly on counter attacks to surprise their opponents, a ploy they used to perfection against India in their last outing.

One of the perennial areas of concern for India is poor percentage of penalty corner conversions as this team doesn't have a designated drag-flicker like Rupinderpal Singh or Amit Rohidas. In fact, even against minnows Indonesia, India failed to convert even half of the 20 plus short corners that they earned.

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