GUANGZHOU: Arch-rivals India and Pakistan warmed up for the high-voltage clash in the Asian Games men’s field hockey with an awesome display of their strike power on Wednesday.
India whipped Bangladesh 9-0 for their second win in group B with penalty corner specialist Sandeep Singh scoring four goals and Tushar Khandekar two.
Pakistan, playing their first match in the competition, adjusted quickly to the conditions and hammered Hong Kong 12-0 with Muhammad Waqar leading the charge with three goals.
India and Pakistan are due to meet on Saturday in what could be the key match to decide the two semi-finalists from the five-nation group B.
It will be the third face-off between the South Asian neighbours this year, with India winning 4-1 at the World Cup and 7-4 at the Commonwealth Games, both times at home in New Delhi.
Pakistan, who complained of rude behavior by Indian fans during the Commonwealth Games, are looking to turn the tables on neutral territory.
India’s Spanish coach Jose Brasa admitted it was important to beat Pakistan, but chose to concentrate on the bigger picture.
“The winner of the tournament will go through to the London Olympics, so each match is important,” said Brasa.
“Two out of two is a good start and we are ready for our next game (against Pakistan).”
India, who had trounced Hong Kong 7-0 on Monday, took a 3-0 lead by half-time against Bangladesh before pumping in six more goals in the second session.
Khandekar struck twice, while Shivendra Singh, captain Rajpal Singh and Dharamvir Singh netted one each to build on Sandeep’s four penalty corner conversions.
“We tested our penalty corner tactics and they worked well,” said Sandeep, who scored two goals in the first match.
Pakistan, taking the field soon after India’s match, attacked from the start to run up an impressive tally.
Veteran penalty corner exponent Sohail Abbas, recalled to the national side after the Commonwealth Games, and his understudy Muhammad Imran, scored two goals each.
Both Rehan Butt and Haseem Khan also found the target twice, while Fareed Ahmed completed Pakistan’s goal-spree.
Pakistan are hoping to turn their fortunes in Guangzhou after finishing last at the World Cup and an embarrassing sixth at the Commonwealth Games.
The Pakistanis, who won the last of their seven Asian Games gold medals in Beijing in 1990, have not bagged a major title since the World Cup triumph in Sydney in 1994.
“This tournament is big for us,” said Pakistan veteran Shakeel Abbasi.
“To win our first match by 12 goals is a good start, but we know we have tougher games ahead against Japan and India.”
Butt, asked about the match against India, said: “They had the crowd on their side in the last two matches, but this is a neutral venue and that advantage won’t be there.
“It should be a very good game.”