KUANTAN - Pakistan are all set to challenge host Malaysia in semifinals of the Fourth Asian Hockey Champions Trophy 2016 in the Malaysian city of Kuantan Saturday. The first semi-final will be played between India vs Korea.
India won the inaugural 2011 edition of the Champions Trophy, while Pakistan have been two-time champion.
It is presumed that Sunday’s final will be another epic battle between the two archrivals if both teams succeed in their respective encounters in semi-finals.
Malaysian team have been enjoying a terrific run in the tournament with a 4-2 victory over Pakistan in the opening match, defeated China 5-1 and Japan 7-2 until India slammed the brakes on the host following a 2-1 win.
The defending champion, Pakistan thrashed Korea 1-0, beat Japan 4-3 and outclassed China by 4-0. Pakistan coach M Khawaja Junaid promised a tough fight in tomorrow’s match and that his players would give all it takes to stop Malaysia from entering the final.
Although the records favour Malaysia, Khawaja said he was optimistic that their first victory would be possible if the players gave their full concentration and used all the opportunities to score goals. “We will be careful with the tactical and individual skills during the match against Malaysia. Both teams have an advantage on penalty corners but creating opportunities is also important. I think we had lots of it in the previous game, but we missed it. But each game is different and I believe both teams will give their best,” he said
Malaysia will have to contend with the lethal penalty corners and finishing of Pakistan in the semi-final.
Malaysia captain Shukri Mutalib said the task would be a top priority for the squad even though they defeated Pakistan 4-2 in the opening match as analysis found the defending champions had improved after every game. “The game against Pakistan cannot be compared to the match earlier. We have anlaysed the matches and found Pakistan have improved. They improved game by game,” he told a media conference.
Meanwhile, national hockey coach Stephen Van Huizen said tomorrow’s game would be different compared to the previous match and would see new challenges as both teams were eyeing to be in the final.
“Pakistan are always one of the good teams in hockey but we managed to beat them in the first game and we finished second in the pool standing. But the match has entered a new round. This position does not matter now. Who plays a better game tomorrow, who makes the right decisions, as well as taking chances and defending well... will decide the winners of tomorrow’s game,” he said.
Stephen added that his boys were ready and had undergone extra training on penalty shooting as part of preparations to meet Pakistan.
He noted that the team were aware and prepared if defender Faizal Saari had to leave the game to be with his wife, who is expecting to give birth any time now.
“We can’t control certain things, but we are all prepared.
We know his family comes first but we hope he will be with us until the end of the tournament. I believe Faizal has also set his mind to finish the tournament if he can,” he said.