Arch-rivals India and Pakistan return to centre stage in field hockey on Saturday after a controversial format helped them reach the Champions Trophy semi-finals in Bhubaneswar.
Instead of rewarding performances in the preliminary league, all eight teams were assured of reaching the quarter-finals — a round which turned the tournament on its head, and left some teams quietly fuming.
The top four teams in the league — England, the Netherlands, Argentina and Belgium — were all knocked out in Thursday`s round of eight, while the bottom four sailed through to the semi-finals.
The format also helped new-look world champions Australia, seeking a sixth successive title, and Olympic gold-medallists Germany recover from shaky starts to line up for Saturday`s other semi-final.
Hosts India, ranked ninth in the world, fought back from a 0-2 deficit to beat number four Belgium 4-2. Eleventh-ranked Pakistan stunned the Dutch by a similar margin after losing all their three league matches.
The Germans knocked out England 2-0 and Australia ousted Argentina 4-2.
Dutch coach Max Caldas had been wary of the format from the start. “If you lose all three league games, you could still win the tournament and I think that`s bad,” he had said earlier in the week.
In contrast, the surviving teams could not hide their glee.
“Although I am not in favour of this (format), today I don’t mind it,” Australian coach Graham Reid said.
German captain Moritz Furste added: “In this situation it is good for us. It has given us a lease of life. We can go on to win the tournament from here.”