Hangzhou [China], October 3 (ANI): The Indian Men's Hockey Team will face their toughest challenge yet at the 19th Asian Games Hangzhou 2022 when the side led by Captain Harmanpreet Singh square off against four-time Champions Korea in the 1st Semi-Final on Wednesday. Dominant India, once again, ended the Pool Stage as table-toppers after picking a 12-0 win over Bangladesh on Monday.
With five wins in all their five Pool A matches, India earned 15 points, and are yet to be beaten in the tournament. India were in a similar position heading into the Semi-Finals at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, but went down 2-2 (6-7) to Malaysia, missing out on the opportunity to win the Gold medal. Harmanpreet Singh said that the team is wary of not taking any opposition lightly and will enter the game against Korea with a positive mindset.
"We have started strongly in the tournament and have won all our Pool stage matches, which has given us a lot of confidence going into the final stages of the competition. We will enter into the 1st Semi-Final with a positive mindset, but we are also cautious that we do not allow ourselves to take any opposition lightly and are well-prepared to adapt ourselves against our opposition whenever needed," Harmanpreet Singh said as quoted in a press release from Hockey India.
While India last won the Asian Games trophy in 2014 in Incheon, Korea's last title win was back in 2006 in Doha. So far in the competition, India have beaten Uzbekistan 16-0, defeated Singapore 16-1, picked up a 4-2 win over Japan, followed it up with a 10-2 win over Pakistan, and then defeated Bangladesh 12-0.
On the other hand, while Korea defeated Indonesia 10-0 and Thailand 10-0 as well, the World No. 12 suffered a shocking 2-3 defeat at the hands of World No. 22 China in the Pool Stage. Korea bounced back with a 4-3 win over Malaysia and a 16-2 win over Oman to make it to the Semi-Finals.
"In a long tournament, it is all about making correct decisions on the field and off the field. We know Korea's strengths and their defensive capabilities. They are a strong unit and have done exceedingly well in the tournament so far. We know of their track record at the Asian Games, and hence, we know we have to put our best foot forward to ensure we do not allow them any room to surprise us on the field," Harmanpreet Singh added.
India's last few meetings against Korea are a testament to how close the competition has been between the two nations. At the Hero Asian Champions Trophy Chennai 2023 in August this year, India had to fight hard to pick up a close 3-2 win over the opposition. Last year, at the Hero Asia Cup 2022, India drew 4-4 against Korea, and at the Hero Asian Champions Trophy Dhaka 2021, the two sides drew 2-2 as well.
Since 2013, the two teams have squared off 17 times, in which India have won 8, while 6 have ended in a draw. Korea have won three games between the two teams.
"Korea have traditionally been a tough opponent for us. But having played them recently has given us an idea of what we can expect in the upcoming game," Indian Men's Hockey Team Chief Coach Craig Fulton said.
"We know that Korea are defensively very strong and how dangerous they can be with their counter-attacks. So, we have to be ready to defend in numbers whenever we are out of possession. Modern hockey requires players to run the entire length of the pitch, and the fitness levels of our players will be tested against Korea, especially in the hot weather conditions. It will also be crucial to get early goals to get ourselves in a good situation, and not allow the opposition to get comfortable," he signed off.
Indian Men's Hockey Team will compete in the Semi-Final against Korea on Wednesday, October 4th, 2023 at 1330 hrs IST. (ANI)