A traditional rivalry will take centre-stage when India take on Pakistan in the semifinals of the Under-18 Asia Cup hockey tournament.
The two teams have enjoyed success before in the competition, India having been twice—winners in 2001 and fifth in 2009. Pakistan have also twice been part of the tournament, winning it in 2009 and finishing with Bronze in 2011.
In the ongoing tournament, the two teams have had a contrasting set of results. Pakistan have brushed past a relatively inexperienced and easy pool with ease, beating Chinese-Taipei 6-1 in their opener and China 6-0 in the next game. They won their final game against Hong Kong 14-0 to top the group.
India faced a tough challenge against the hosts in the opening game of the tournament and went down 5-4 in what was arguably the most exciting match played yet. Brushing off that loss, they defeated Oman 11-0 to take their first points of the competition.
Indian forwards Ibungo Singh Konjengbam and Dilpreet Singh have been in sparkling form in the tournament with four goals each.
At the back, despite the disappointment of the first game, Captain Nilam Sanjeep Xess and goalkeeper Pankaj Kumar Rajak have been standout performers.
Speaking about the encounter Coach BJ Kariappa said, “The traditional rivalry adds a unique flavour to the contest, but we expect that. The boys are focused on the task at hand. Pakistan have been prolific in front of goal, so obviously we will need to tighten up our defensive structure in the game. On the other hand, I don’t think they have had to face an attacking side like ours, with this depth of talent yet, so it will be a challenge for them too.”