Jakarta: After two totally one-sided contests against Indonesia and Hong Kong, defending champion India are likely to face some resistance in their league match of the Hockey competition at the Asian Games on Friday.
India thrashed Indonesia 17-0 in their opener to improve upon their previous best of 12-0 in the Asian Games, the former World Champions mauled Hong Kong 26-0 to erase the 86-year-old record of 24-1, which was against set against the United States way back in 1932 Olympics.
Having scored 43 goals in two matches as compared to 20 goals they scored in the whole tournament in Incheon in 2014, India starts favourite, but then Japan is not an easy team to beat.
They know their basics unlike Indonesia and Hong Kong, having played at much-higher level and with two wins in their kitty, the Japanese will take the field with a hope of causing an upset.
Winning the title will not only earn the team a gold, but also a direct entry into the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
Coach Harendra Singh is not taking the match lightly.
“The two matches we won by big margins are history for me. It is going to be new match and needless to say Japan is a strong team,” he said.
Harendra was happy with the way his team has shaped up. “It is not that only we are playing so called weak teams. They are there for others like Korea, Japan, Pakistan and Malaysia.”
“We played against them because they have been made part of the competition by the Asian
The coach said that boys were focused. “We are taking and talking about one match at a time. We don’t worry about what other teams are doing.”
Japan has beaten Sri Lanka (11-0) and Indonesia (3-1) that means they enter the field on equal footing as far as points tally is concerned. They tend to play mostly defensive often crowding the defence thus making it difficult for the opponents to score.
Japan who are hosting the next Olympic Games in 2020 are in the build-up stage and will be happy to make the last four. They have beaten Pakistan a couple of times in recent tournaments in Melbourne and Muscat. Their leading strikers Kenta Tanaka, Genki Mitani and Kenji Kitazato are capable of creating problems for the rival teams.
Indian strikers will have to display that cutting edge to breach the defence. The Indians have so for not encountered any such difficulty because the rivals were novices. They could not defend their citadels despite crowding them, but that will not be the case with Japan.
For the coach, the main worrying factor is the low success rate of penalty corner conversions. India has the luxury of having four flickers, Rupinder Pal, Harmanpreet Singh, Amit Rohidas and Varun Kumar, and they managed to convert only quite a few against, Hong Kong and hosts. But how they will fare against Japan will remain to be seen.