Jakarta [Indonesia], May 22 (ANI): Defending champions India will open its campaign at the Asia Cup in a high-octane clash against arch-rivals Pakistan on Monday at the vibrant GBK Arena, the same venue as the Asian Games Jakarta in 2018.
An action-packed opening day will also witness Malaysia take on Oman, who are riding on the success of their Asian Games Qualifier in Thailand a fortnight ago, while Asian Champions Trophy title holders Korea will play Bangladesh in the Pool B matches. Japan, who are also the Asian Games defending champions, will take on hosts Indonesia.
In the previous edition of this marquee tournament in Asian Hockey Federation (AHF) calendar which is also World Cup qualifier, India had defeated Malaysia 2-1 in a scintillating final held in Dhaka. Both India and Pakistan have won the tournament three times each, while South Korea is the most successful team having clinched the title four times out of 10 previous editions.
India have named a young team coupled with vastly experienced captain Birendra Lakra and vice-captain SV Sunil, while star performer at the Tokyo Olympic Games Simranjeet Singh makes a comeback after a long injury lay-off. The team will be guided by two-time Olympian and former captain Sardar Singh as their coach.
Speaking on the eve of their opening match against Pakistan, both Lakra and Sunil stressed on the need to guide the youngsters in the high-pressure game. “Pressure is always there (against Pakistan). Any match against Pakistan is always a high-voltage one. As seniors we can’t be too excited then the junior players will come under pressure. So, we need to take it as a normal match,” Sunil said.
Lakra added: “Both the teams are young. For us, it is important to go match by match. If the performance is good result will definitely come. If we perform well the confidence level will be high.”
Emphasizing on how all teams are on par with each other and on a good day, anyone can upset any team, Sunil said, “No team can be taken lightly. Everyone is here to earn a place in the World Cup next year and as defending champions our focus will be on putting up our best show.” (ANI)