The Asia Cup is the premier continental hockey tournament played roughly every 4 years since 1982. The 10th edition of the tournament started on the 11th of October and is currently ongoing at the Maulana Bhasani Hockey Stadium in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
The 8 team tournament is being played by dividing the teams in 2 groups. While India, Pakistan, Japan and Bangladesh were potted in Group A, Malaysia, South Korea, China and Oman constitute Group B.
The 2 best teams from either group were scheduled to move to the Super 4’s while the rest played out between them for the 5th to 8th placed play offs.
India made a brilliant start to their Asia Cup campaign in Group A, by defeating all the three teams. They advanced to the Super 4’s with a 100% record. India started with a 5-1 trouncing of Japan before a 7-0 thrashing of Bangladesh. In the final match, India fought off their arch rivals Pakistan by a margin of 3-1. India’s exploits in the group consisted of 15 goals scored and only 2 conceded. Harmanpreet Singh and Ramandeep Singh scored 3 each. while SV Sunil scored a brace.
Pakistan was the other qualifier from the group by the virtue of a better goal difference after they were tied on 4 points with Japan.
In the other group, Malaysia made a clean sweep with 3 wins from 3, scoring 16 and conceding only 3. South Korea was the other qualifier notching up 2 wins over China and Oman.
In the 5th to 8th place play offs, Japan got the better of both Oman and Bangladesh to finish 5th followed by the hosts. China finished 7th defeating Oman.
India’s start to the Super 4’s were “blued” by the Koreans after Gurjant Singh needed a last minute equaliser to salvage a point against the defending champions. India however bounced back in the following match, when they humbled the Malaysians 6-2. The Men in Blue are currently sitting top of the Super 4’s with 4 points from 2 games and with a goal difference of +4. Malaysia, South Korea and Pakistan respectively are on 3, 2 and 1 point.
The Tigers are scheduled to play the defending champions on the 21st while India takes on Pakistan once again. In the current situation, even a 0-2 defeat against the Green Shirts (who have a goal difference of -1) for Sjoerd Marijne’s men will ensure a birth for Sunday’s Asia Cup final.
With a win registered already against the 3-times champions in the group stage and given the form the Indians are in, it is improbable that the 2-times champions will be requiring the worst case qualification scenario to qualify. The Indian front line have scored 22 goals from five games in the Asia Cup so far, while the back line has held their own conceding only 5. Barring the South Korea natch, the Asian Cup gold medalists have looked very much dominating and will definitely be the favourite to advance to and win Sunday’s final.
The Asia Cup encounter of India vs Pakistan hits off at 5 pm IST and will be live on Star Sports 2. The Final will be played on Sunday from the same time with live coverage on the same channel.