Bhubaneswar, 12 December 2014: After a series of spectacular matches and surprising results, the mother of all clashes will be witnessed on 12 December when the host India face their arch-rivals Pakistan in the 2nd Semi-final match of the Hero Men’s Champions Trophy 2014 and set the blue astro-turf on fire with their high-intense battle in front of a cheering crowd at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar.
As the hockey fans have already considered the India versus Pakistan tie as the final before the Final match of the tournament, both the teams know the intensity of the clash and importance of the result. However, it is not easy to predict the result of this most-sought match as both India and Pakistan started the tournament with defeats and gained momentum in their last matches. Host India, who had a successful Australia tour recently, lost their first match by 0-1 against the nine-time FIH Champions Trophy champions Germany. They continued their poor results in the next match also where the home team had a disappointing 2-4 defeat against Argentina. The FIH Ranked number 9 India got their lost form in the last Pool B match against The Netherlands, outplaying the eight-time FIH Champions Trophy champions by 3-2 and in the quarter-final, they defeated the spirited Belgium by 4-2.
On the other hand, Pakistan, the lowest ranked team at number 11 in the world, lost all their Pool A matches against Belgium, England and Australia respectively with huge goal-margins. The three-time FIH Champions Trophy champions Pakistan started their campaign with 1-2 defeat against Belgium, followed by disheartening 2-8 loss to England and ended their league round with 0-3 result against defending champions Australia. However, in all the league matches, Pakistan team didn’t lose their confidence and kept improving their game match by match. They showed their best performance the quarter-final match against the eight-time FIH Champions Trophy champions The Netherlands and stunned them by impressive 4-2 result. Pakistan utilised all their resources and the experience, which they gained from their defeats, in the quarter-final match and outplayed the Dutch team to reach the semi-final of the Hero Men’s Champions Trophy 2014.
The Asian hockey giants India and Pakistan clashed 17 times in the FIH Champions Trophy and Pakistan won eleven matches while India tasted victory in six matches. At the most recent FIH Champions Trophy in 2012 in Melbourne, the Green-shirts also succeeded in winning their quarter-final and went on to win bronze, beating India 3-2 in that match. The most recent clash was in the 2014 Incheon Asian Games final match where both the teams showed their best performances and brought back the glory of the South Asian hockey in Incheon. The final match finished with 1-1 score and the result was decided through the penalty shootout. The high-octane final match of the 2014 Asiad finished with India’s remarkable victory over Pakistan and restarted the historical rivalry between the two Asian teams. In tomorrow’s semi-final clash, Pakistan will look for the revenge of their Asian Games final defeat whereas India will vie to continue their good form in the prestigious tournament.
Speaking on the most-awaited match tomorrow, Vice-Captain PR Sreejesh said, “The semi-final match with Pakistan is going to be very interesting. We are still good in defence and Penalty Corner and our strategies will be different from before. Pakistan is also playing well and they are also skilful. The Indian – Pakistan match is similar like other matches but the emotional factor is going to make so much different. The team is set and ready for the match and our focus is to win the semi-final match.”
Commenting on tomorrow’s face-off against Pakistan, High Performance Director Roelant Oltmans said, “We are not in pressure at all for the Pakistan match, the game will be as well as like other matches. We don’t see any weak points of Pakistan till now. I am impressed with the performance of our team and the performance will continue to the next matches.”
Talking post the practice session Pakistan Coach Sheikh Shahnaz said, “Tomorrow’s match will be the most-sought-match of the tournament. We are working hard and surely play for the win. However, having played many international matches in the past couple of years, India’s fitness has improved immensely but Pakistan lacks in this field because we have not played any international tournament for almost a year and a half. There is no pressure on the team as our main aim was to finish amongst the top four and we have been successful in doing so. I would like to wish both teams good luck for the upcoming match.”
Speaking on tomorrow’s match, Pakistan Captain Muhammad Imran said, “India versus Pakistan in the semi-final is nothing less than the finals for us as it has been very long since the time these two teams met in an international tournament like this one. A tough fight is witnessed whenever these two teams have met in the past and this semi-final will prove to be a terrific one. We have done our homework for this match and we are looking forward to the high-intense semi-final clash tomorrow.”