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India, Pak to meet in crowd-pulling final

The men's field hockey title contest is shaping as the showpiece event of the inaugural Afro-Asian Games.

othersports Updated: Oct 30, 2003 16:19 IST

The India-Pakistan men's field hockey title contest on Friday is shaping as the showpiece encounter of the inaugural Afro-Asian Games.

India scraped past Malaysia in the Wednesday's semifinal, but promises to go all out to repeat its 4-2 league win against Pakistan here and underscore its title triumph in last month's Asia Cup at Kuala Lumpur.

"The tension is going to be thick," said Rajinder Singh, India's head coach. "We are determined to repeat our title win at the Asia Cup."

But Tahir Zaman, Pakistan's coach and former captain, has other ideas.

He said the recent trend of Indo-Pak hockey matches indicate that the team winning the head-to-head league encounter has lost a subsequent medal contest.

"We hope the trend continues, it's loaded in our favor," said Zaman. "We want to settle a score."

It happened recently in the Asia Cup where India won the final, and before that in the bronze medal playoffs of two successive Champions Trophy tournaments.

Pakistan leads 52-37 in 110 head-to-heads, with 21 matches drawn. In 15 title-deciding encounters between the two, starting with the 1956 Melbourne Olympic final, Pakistan has a marginal 8-7 advantage, but Singh said India's recent record gives it an edge at the Afro-Asian Games.

India has won six and drawn one of the last 10 matches.

"We've been winning more games against Pakistan in recent times, and that's what counts," Singh said. "I want my boys to reproduce the form they showed in the league game against Pakistan."

Zaman said his strikers missed several scoring chances in Monday's loss to India, which determined top place in their group.

"We'll be more organized this time, as we showed in out 2-0 semifinal win against South Korea where we controlled the pace of the game," he said.

Zaman said a reminder of the 1982 Asian Games title victory in New Delhi had boosted Pakistan's confidence ahead of Friday's final.

Pakistan's 7-1 win against India in '82 remains one of its most-cherished victories. It took India 13 years to overcome the confidence-crash from that defeat by prevailing 5-2 in the 1995 South Asian Federation Games in Chennai.

An India vs Pakistan final was what everyone had been waiting for, said Singh, and it contained the ingredients that can bring the subcontinent to a virtual standstill.

Because of diplomatic tension, this is the first time in five years that an Indian or Pakistani team has crossed the border to participate in a high-profile encounter in cricket or hockey.

Sports fans across the neighboring countries will be closely following the match on TV or radio, and regional pride is on the line.

First Published: Oct 30, 2003 16:01 IST