India’s coach insisted Tuesday that there was “no room for emotions” on the eve of the highly anticipated grudge match against great rivals Pakistan at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.
“Such sentiments can cost us the match as you will not be playing for the points. There is no doubt that this will be yet another good match-up, but we aim to take it as just another game,” Indian coach Harinder Singh said.
Going into Wednesday’s clash, India — the reigning joint champions — are third in the standings with seven points with two matches to go. Old foes Pakistan are one place and one point behind from the same number of games.
Matches between the neighbours in any sport are always fierce, but the showdown in Ipoh, in northern Malaysia, has taken on extra significance as both sides chase a place in the next round.
It will be the 149th meeting between the two giants of hockey since 1956, but Pakistan have the edge if records are anything to go by — they have 74 wins compared to India’s 49. A total of 25 matches ended in draws.
But the form is with India, who finished joint winners with South Korea last year after the final was washed-out and were the outright champions in 2009.
Pakistan team manager K. M. Junaid said matches between the two teams are always tense, but said any ill-feelings were irrelevant.
“We have to look at the hockey side and play the game to the best of our ability. It is God’s will if we win,” he said.
“But then again, the points are very crucial for us as well as them.
“My young players are doing well and improving with each match. The Indians too have a young side with a lot of players playing at this level for the first time.”
Pakistan started the tournament on a positive note with wins over New Zealand (4-2) and South Korea (4-2), but then lost to Great Britain 3-2 and were smashed by Australia 5-1.
India lost to Korea 3-2 in their opening match, but then beat Great Britain 3-1, drew with Australia and hammered Malaysia 5-2.
Also Wednesday, New Zealand take on Malaysia and Australia face Korea.
Great Britain top the standings ahead of Australia in the seven-team competition.