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2020 Oly Qualifier
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All Important Semifinal for India today (6/13/2019)
--s2h Team
When India met Japan outside the Olympic sphere, it was on its home soils. It was a big stage, it was men's hockey's first foray into the Asian Games. Japan hosted the premier multi-sport Asian meet in Tokyo six decades ago, where they found another platform besides the Olympics and bilateral contacts.

undefined The then reigning Olympic champions India put it across neat 8 goals over the hosts. Sixty years later, when the two met at the same genre of competition, now in a neutral place, Jakarta, the scoreline remained the same. Nothing changed for India with respect to its hockey domination over Japan but it was a mutational phase for under-rated Japan which, despite the Indian defeat, went on to annex its first ever Asiad gold. India just managed a bronze at the cost of Pakistan which was the title winner at Tokyo long ago. The entire Asian equation went topsy turvy.

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When India takes on the neo-power Japan in the semi-finals of the Bhubaneswar FIH Series, therefore the pressure is on India, not on the Japanese. It was for two obvious reasons: Firstly, having underperformed over a couple of years, India is in dire need of achieving something big to improve its sagging morale. What can be a better place than on its home soils? A resounding victory at Bhubaneswar will pave perfect way for getting Olympic qualification through the last phase.

Secondly, India has not qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, but Japan had. Whether the hosts or Asian champions, Japan is there for sure in Tokyo unlike Greece! They can relax, but they will not. If they were a relaxed side, they would not have bounced back from 0-2 to 6-6 at Jakarata ten months ago!

Though India beat Japan with heavy score in Asian Champions Trophy and other events, Japan pulled up its socks in April this year. At Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, Indian forwards could not have a fiefdom as they had in Jakarta and elsewhere subsequently. India extracted a 2-0 win in a tense contest.

Japan, coached by Dutch import Siegfried Aikman, is unpredictable to say the least.

They are not push over is a proven fact, but can they again be giant killer is the moot point as they line up for semi-final tomorrow.

The last three matches' proceedings prove both sides did not cover themselves with glory. Japan could only draw dogged side in USA while India huffed and buffed for a 3-1 win over Polant, who are way below in terms of FIH Ranking! Therefore, even as entire India is in excitment over impending India-Pakistan contest in the England-Wales Cricket World Cup, at least a thousand eyes will be anxious and curious to follow the FIH Series' semifinals.

If Japan can come back from 2-5 doan to 6-6 against Malaysia in the all important Asian Games, anything can happen tomorrow at Bhubaneswar.

PIC: News item of on India-Japan match, 1958 Asian Games.

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