Greenshirts brace for India challenge in Malaysia
KARACHI: With their hopes of bagging gold all but over, Pakistan take on arch-rivals India in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup at the Azlan Shah Stadium in Ipoh, Malaysia today vying to make the top four and contest for a bronze medal.
The Pakistan-India rivalry, be it in cricket, hockey or any other sport, always attracts huge interest. And despite both teams failing to live up to the standards expected of them in the past few years, a Pakistan-India encounter never fails to be a head-turner at any tournament.
Three-time winners Pakistan missed the last two editions of the tournament, while India, champions on five occasions, finished with a bronze medal last year.
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Pakistan have won only one out of three matches in the tournament — defeating Canada 3-1; losing to New Zealand and Australia 5-3 and 4-0 respectively. India, meanwhile, have won two out of their three matches — defeating Canada 3-1 and Japan 2-1; losing to Australia 5-1.
Pakistan are currently sixth in the tournament rankings and must win their next three games — against India, Japan and Malaysia — to finish third. India, on the other hand, are third in the tournament and will boost their chances of making the top-two if they defeat Pakistan in today’s encounter.
While both sides are featuring young players, Pakistan have an advantage as eight players in their current squad are those who recently won gold at the South Asian Games, defeating India 1-0 in the final en route to the prize.
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Pakistan head coach Mohammad Khawaja Junaid, meanwhile, wants his players to let their hockey sticks do the talking when they face India.
“The match against India will be an exciting game. The team that manages to defend the counter-attacks will have an edge,” Junaid told The Express Tribune. “Our squad is in a rebuilding phase and what is important is that we follow our game plan to the letter.”
Meanwhile, in other matches of the day, Australia will face New Zealand in a match which decides who finishes on top, while Canada will be up against hosts Malaysia.