India wary of poor Asiad hockey final record against Pakistan

Incheon, Oct 1 (IANS): Two-time champions India will be wary of their poor 1-7 record in the Asian Games final against holders and record eight-time winners Pakistan, when the two sides face-off in the mother of all clashes in the men's hockey final at the Seonhak Stadium here Thursday.

Besides the gold medal, what is also at stake for the two teams is the direct qualification for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Both India and Pakistan had to work hard for the final berth. While India, who are in the final after 12 years, edged past hosts South Korea 1-0 and stayed on course for their first Asian Games gold medal in 16 years, Pakistan had to fight hard for a 6-5 win in the penalty shoot-out against Malaysia after the match ended goalless in regulation time Tuesday.

However, what will trouble the Indian team is their pathetic record against Pakistan in the Asian Games. Out of eight finals, when they have clashed, India have won just once while Pakistan have been victorious seven times. The only time India won the final against Pakistan was at the 1990 Games in Beijing.

The two Asian power houses are going through a tough phase in world hockey. Pakistan, who are record four-time World Cup champions, failed to qualify for the mega event earlier this month for the first time since the inception of the tournament in 1971. They also missed the Commonwealth Games due to an internal dispute. India also had a poor outing in the World Cup finishing ninth but won the silver medal in the Commonwealth Games.

The Asian Games is a tournament for both the teams to salvage some pride. India and Pakistan met once in the group stage and the defending champions scrapped past 2-1.

Showing excellent skills and agility on the field, the Indian team has proved its mettle and has been successful in carving their way into the final.

Going by the past records, at the 2002 Asian Games when these two teams met, India defeated Pakistan 4-3 in the semi-final and then claimed the silver after losing to South Korea 3-4 in the final.

In spite of Pakistan winning the gold and India finishing third at the 2010 Asian Games, when the two teams clashed in the same tournament at the pool stage, India had successfully secured a 3-2 victory over Pakistan.

But here in Incheon, India will be keen to avenge their loss against Pakistan in the group stage.

Indian coach Terry Walsh admits that facing Pakistan in the final will be the ultimate test for his boys.

"We have made our entry to the final and our organisation and performance will be put to the highest test. Pakistan has their strengths and we will be working hard to capitalise on our strengths and put counters to theirs. This game will be a different contest to the round game. I believe we have the capacity and abilities to produce a quality performance at the right moment in the tournament," said Walsh.

India captain Sardar Singh said the team is elated about the fact that it has made it to the final of the tournament after a period of 12 years.

"Considering the defeat against Pakistan in the last match, this final is going to witness a powerful bout from both the sides. It will be a tough match and we are confident to deliver an even tougher fight with positive results this time," he said.


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