Dhaka (Bangladesh): Manpreet Singh-led Indian men’s hockey team will take on Asian Games Champions Japan in the semifinal encounter of the Asian Champions Trophy to be played at the Maulana Bhasani Hockey Stadium here on Tuesday.
After a 2-2 draw against Korea in their first match of the tournament, defending Champions India registered convincing wins against Bangladesh (9-0), Pakistan (3-1) and beat Japan (6-0) in the last round robin league match to top the table ahead of Korea, Pakistan and Japan respectively.
Speaking about his assessment of the team’s performance in the tournament so far, India’s chief coach Graham Reid said, “We had set out in this tournament with a target of getting better as we progress into the tournament and the most important aspect of this tournament for us was to provide opportunities to players who have not played for India in the last two years. As far as the team is concerned, the most important objective was to keep getting better as individuals and as a group.”
“Whilst we didn’t start particularly well against Korea, we have improved upon our performance with each game. We need to do that again tomorrow,” he added.
Highlighting the importance of not getting complacent with any opponent, Manpreet stated that the team will play with high tempo in the semifinal final against Japan. “This is our first competition after the Olympic success and we never came into the tournament thinking the matches will be easy for us. These are all tough teams and I believe they will play with different energy and tempo in the knockout stage,” Manpreet said.
“We cannot underestimate any team and definitely not take a team like Japan lightly. Even though we dominated in the previous match, I still feel we gave away a few chances towards the end of the match. These are the things we should avoid in an important match like the semifinal. We need to play with good energy and not drop the tempo at any point in the match,” he added.
With Graham Reid opting for a young side, Manpreet believes the youngsters have grabbed this opportunity to shine. “I feel the youngsters have utilized this opportunity well. Though we had a shaky start against Korea, we have progressed well with good performances. The plan is to keep up this momentum and ensure we fire in all aspects tomorrow against Japan,” he stated.
In the other semifinal, Pakistan will take on Korea.