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A real test for Brasa’s boys

india Updated: Nov 19, 2010 23:35 IST
Ajai Masand

The start has been auspicious, with massive victories against Hong Kong (7-0) and Bangladesh (9-0), but the Indian hockey team faces the real test in the Asian Games on Saturday when it takes on traditional rivals Pakistan in the third league encounter.

Of late, India have dominated their rivals from across the border, as was the case during the Delhi Commonwealth Games when the hosts crushed Pakistan 7-4 and in the World Cup when India won 4-1.

But that will count for nothing as every Indo-Pak encounter starts with a clean slate and there are no favourites. The ignominy of an early exit from the previous Asian Games in Doha still rankles and Jose Brasa's boys would be keen to erase that blot. India could not make it to the semi-finals for the first time in the history of the Asian Games, leading
to an outcry.

With Pakistan being the most successful team in hockey at the Games, history favours them though they have not entered the final since they last won the title in 1990. India have won just two gold at the Games (1966 & 1998) — both times in Bangkok.

India are on a high after winning the silver medal at the Commonwealth Games, but to ensure a comfortable passage into the semi-finals, they need to beat Pakistan and Japan.

Pakistan’s Sohail Abbas, the highest goal-scorer in the world, is back after being dropped in the wake of a poor show in the World Cup at New Delhi.

The rivals will have revenge on their mind.