ANTWERP: Six months after their controversial and tempestuous Champions Trophy semifinal in Bhubaneswar, eternal arch-rivals Pakistan and India meet once again, this time in a highly anticipated Pool A encounter of the Hockey World League Semifinals on Friday.
Having beaten the hosts 4-3, thanks to a goal in the dying stages of that match, the Pakistani players engaged in over the top celebrations. Amjad Ali and Mohammed Tousiq even waved their middle finger to the crowd that resulted to the crowd that resulted in them getting suspended for the final against Germany.
That game and India’s Asian Games final victory over Pakistan in Incheon has added spice to an already hyped contest. India, who have won their first two games against France (3-2) and Poland (3-0), in rather unconvincing fashion, face their first real test, against an opposition that has beaten them in two of their previous three meetings.
While Sardar Singh’s side have already qualified for the 2016 Olympics thanks to their win in the Asian Games, a match against Pakistan is enough motivation to get the competitive juices flowing among his boys.
For both teams, a victory in this match will pave the way for a favourable quarterfinal draw. Pakistan, however, will find themselves under pressure given the fact that they scraped to a 2-1 win over Poland, and got hammered 6-1 by Australia.
Sardar Singh said that even though there’s not much at stake for his team in this tournament, they are keen to take this opportunity to produce positive results ahead of the World League Finals.
“We want to win against Pakistan ahead of the game against World Champions Australia,” said Sardar.
For India’s new chief coach Paul van Ass, to be a part of an Indo-Pak contest, comes as a completely new experience. “It’s going to be my first experience of an India-Pakistan hockey encounter. But during the 2010 World Cup in Delhi, I saw the excitement it causes,” said Van Ass.