Indian hockey team’s Australian coach Micahel Nobbs has tagged Pakistan as favourites for the Asian Champions Trophy 2012, which gets underway in Qatar on Thursday.
Pakistan, who beat India in the bronze-medal match of the recently-concluded FIH Champions Trophy in Australia, are the top-ranked side in the six-nation tournament.
“Pakistan are clearly the favourites for this tournament,” Nobbs said while speaking to reporters at the Doha International Airport upon his team’s arrival in Qatar.
The Indian coach insisted that the experienced players in Pakistan’s squad would help the Greenshirts dominate.
“Both teams (India and Pakistan) are playing after coming straight from a tough tournament, but Pakistan have some great players like Shakeel Abbasi and Waseem Ahmed, between them they have around 600 games. We have Sardar (Singh) who has figured in 150 matches,” he said, while comparing both teams.
In the most anticipated match of the group stages, Pakistan will face India on Monday, December 24 at 9:00pm PST.
Pakistan’s 18-member squad, along with six officials, including the manager and the coach, also reached Doha early Thursday.
Speaking to reporters prior to the team’s departure, Head Coach Akhtar Rasool said that the team’s morale was very high after their podium finish at the Champions Trophy and they would “perform well to fulfil the people’s expectations.”
India, meanwhile, are the defending champions after winning the first edition of the tournament in China, where they beat Pakistan in a penalty shootout.
Apart from the South Asian giants, China, Malaysia, Japan and Oman are the other participating nations in the eight-day tournament, which will be played at Al-Rayyan Hockey Stadium.
The Greenshirts, winners of the world title for a record four times, have leapt from the ninth place to fifth in the latest rankings released by FIH after the bronze-medal finish in Australia.
Schedule of the Asian Champions Trophy 2012: December 20 Malaysia vs Japan India vs China Pakistan vs Oman
December 21 India vs Japan Pakistan vs China Malaysia vs Oman
December 23 Japan vs China India vs Oman Pakistan vs Malaysia
December 24 Japan vs Oman China vs Malaysia Pakistan vs India
December 26 China vs Oman Pakistan vs Japan Malaysia vs India
December 27 Fifth-placed team vs Sixth-placed team Fourth-placed team vs Third-placed team Second-placed team vs First-placed team [Final]