LAHORE, Dec 18: The 18-member Pakistan hockey team along with six officials left for Doha in the early hours of Tuesday morning to participate in the second Asian Champions Trophy, which starts from Dec 20.

Pakistan’s head coach Akhtar Rasool told the media at the Allama Iqbal International Airport that the team’s morale is very high after their third-place finish in the Champions Trophy and they would perform well to fulfill the nation’s expectations.

“There will be good competition in Doha,” Akhtar said. “India will be defending their crown so it will be a tough battle with them.”

Pakistan hockey team captain Mohammad Imran, meanwhile, said that the team was well-prepared to mount a strong title challenge.

“We are looking forward to winning the title,” he said. “The players are confident and we will give our best in the tournament.”

The six-nation event will conclude on Dec 27 at the Al Rayyan Hockey Stadium in the the Qatar capital.

Top-ranked Pakistan, defending champions India, China, Oman, Japan and Malaysia will feature in the eight-day event and every participating team will play a match against all other sides.

The big clash of the tournament takes place on Dec 24 when Pakistan clash with arch-rivals India with Indian coach Michael Nobbs already declaring Pakistan the pre-tournament favourites.Upon the Indian team’s arrival at the Doha International Airport, Nobbs said: “Pakistan are clearly the favourites for this tournament. They have some great players like Shakeel Abbasi and Waseem Ahmed, between them they have around 600 games.”

India defeated Pakistan in the last edition of the Asian Champions Trophy held in China but Pakistan have already beaten India twice; in the third place playoff at the Champions Trophy last month and the Hockey 9’s tournament in Melbourne.

But India’s ace player Sardar Singh isn’t eyeing revenge in Doha.

“Every India-Pakistan match is intense,” he told reporters. “We will try not to repeat the mistakes we did against them in Melbourne.”

Schedule (Pakistan’s matches): Dec 20: Pakistan v Oman, Dec 21: Pakistan v China, Dec 22: Pakistan v Malaysia, Dec 24: Pakistan v India, Dec 25: Pakistan v Japan.—Agencies

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