India start favourites against Japan in semi-final of Hero Asian Champions Trophy
New Delhi, December 20, 2021
Having topped the round robin league, defending champions India start overwhelming favourites as they take on Asian Games champions Japan in the semi-final of the Hero Asian Hockey Champions Trophy to be played at the Maulana Bhasani Stadium in Dhaka on Tuesday.
India finished the league with ten points, having scored 20 goals while conceding only three. in four matches, they drew 2-2 against Korea in their first match of the tournament, but after that the Manpreet Singh-led side chalked out impressive wins against Bangladesh (9-0), Pakistan (3-1) and Japan (6-0) to top the table ahead of Korea, Pakistan and Japan, respectively.
In the other semi-final, Pakistan will face South Korea.
Giving his assessment of the Indian team's showing so far, 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.
Skipper Manpreet Singh asserted that his boys are not complacent and are not underestimating 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," he 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 semi-final. We need to play with good energy and not drop the tempo at any point in the match," he added.
Manpreet was of the view that 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 added.