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Pak, India set for combustible thriller

GUANGZHOU: Pakistan and India Friday dismissed suggestions of “frayed nerves” as arch rivals geared for a combustible hockey clash in Asian Games on Saturday. Group B match at Aoti hockey stadium, where winner will book a semi-final place, gives Pakistan a chance to avenge two humiliating defeats at India’s hands this year.
India won 4-1 at the World Cup in March and then dished out a 7-4 hammering at last month’s Commonwealth Games, both times at home in New Delhi.
Pakistan hope to turn the tables on neutral territory. “If we play as well as we are capable off, we will give Indians a good response,” said Pakistan’s coach Michel van den Heuvel. “We have the team to win the tournament.”

The Dutchman, who took over after former champions finished last at the World Cup, stressed a win over India was only part of plan since the champions will get a direct entry to London Olympics. “Every team knows how important this tournament is,” he said. “That is why we have prepared well for it.”
Pakistan, who won last of their seven Asian Games gold medals in Beijing in 1990, have not bagged a major title since World Cup triumph in Sydney in 1994.
Captain Zeeshan Ashraf was confident ahead of key clash. “We are not nervous at all. India is a good team but we have planned well for this match. Morale is high after our two wins here.”
Pakistan showcased their awesome strike power when they smashed Hong Kong 12-0 before recording a morale-boosting 8-2 win over semi-final contenders Japan on successive days.
Veteran penalty-corner exponent Sohail Abbas, recalled to the team after Commonwealth Games, has led the charge with two goals in each match. “We have special tactics for India,” said 35-year-old, who began tournament as leading scorer with 306 goals.-PPI


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