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2018 Asian Champions Trophy
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Japan wins the heart, India the match (10/28/2018)
--s2h Team
Showcasing one of the best defence tactics, continental champions Japan matched every Indian move in a precision that can evoke awe in any top hockey nation, in the Asian Champions Trophy encounter in Muscat before going down valiantly 3-2 in the second semi-final. Similarly, fluent and gritty, Malaysia stretched dominant Pakistan into a cruelling shoot out where it went down 1-3. The end result is, another India-Pakistan encounter that can bring full stands once again in the desert destination. The short story is the teams that fought for gold in Jakarta a month ago will now play for bronze while the third place contenders there will now lock horns for top honours. Both India and Pak will pitch in for their third title win, indicating return of traditional equation in Asian hockey.

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Its straight fifth final for Pakistan in the annals of ACT.

Before the semi-final, the gift of the gab Siegfried Aikman said that he is always very confident looking at the future-games and consigned 9-0 rout at the hands of India in the league a history. "Tomorrow is the future", he thundered. And also let us believe that India can beat them 9 out of ten times but the next game could be the one where we can beat them. We will play to win".

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He was true to his words.

Japan put up a stellar show today and was a whisker away from doing a Malaysia on India, though unable to take the game to shoot out.

"I have a different team from the one at Asian Games. The young-guys are less-disciplined, too eager to get the ball, showcase their dribbling skills, instead of being deadly effective".

Again, Siegried's words matched his players' action on the turf today in the semi-final.

India did not get enough elbow room anywhere in the field to repeat what they did in the past two encouters (8-0, 9-0).

As he would further elaborate, and as young side would execute, Japan did not allow Indians to 'feel free'.

Despite extraordinarily superb first quarter in which it held its territorial supremacy -- 76 percent ball possession in rival half -- India could not puncture the iron looking Japan citadel. Mandeep Singh, Nilakanta Sharma, Dilpreet Singh were those who hurried their shots in the spell, to give psychological boost to their rivals.

However, once scoring started in the second quarter, Japan did not panic. They made their moves like on chess board.

India scored twice but each time they came out with a reply within 2,3 minutes to keep their hopes alive.

They entered the striking circle of India once twice but got on both occasion a penalty corner. It was Surender's foot in the first and then Gurjinder unnecessarily bodily tackled to concede the other.

Had only Harmanpreet Singh placed his first strike off the first penalty corner in right direction, things would not have turned the way it did for the Japanese.

Goalless first quarter in which India made at least half a dozen shots at goal, and holding the proceedings on their way, did not end in moving the scoreboard.

It seems Indians have given up patient game which was their hall marker over a last decade, a grain that foreign coaches could infuse. Its on the decline, which should worry India irrespective of what would transpire in the final.

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