ISLAMABAD/LAHORE

It will be clash of titans when arch-rivals Pakistan and India will take on each other in the 17th Asian Games hockey event group A match at Munhak Hockey Stadium today (Thursday).

This crucial encounter will decide the fate of the group as Pakistan will be meeting Oman in their last league tie. A win is expected to lift Pakistan on the top of the pool. Defending champion Pakistan is looking in a great nick having won their opening two league in impression style. They had missing problems against China in the first two quarters but they gave sparkling performance in the last 20-minutes. Hockey, now, looked a bit different with four 15-minute quarters and 10 minutes break after the second quarter and two minutes after first and third quarter.  Talking to The Nation, Pakistan hockey team head coach Shahnaz Sheikh expressed his utter satisfaction over the team's preparations for the crunch match against India today (Thursday).

“The team is mentally and physically fully prepared to take on the Indian challenge. Three-day time to prepare against the arch-rivals proved enough to rethink our strategy and remove flaws from the last game against China. As I still believe, the green shirts should have won that encounter by at least 5-0 margin, but the good thing from the first games is that we didn't concede, that is quite satisfactory from my entire coaching staff,” he said.

Shahnaz added: “I told boys to enjoy playing their hockey and forget about results. If they play according to their abilities, it is my firm belief, they can beat any top side of the world. We have given top priority on short corners and emphasize on cutting down missing ratio. I chalk out a complete planning involving my supporting staff and we spent hours and hours in the ground working on minimizing errors. I am quite sure players will respond in style. Although Indians are very strong and much experienced as compare to Pakistan team, yet I believe we could overcome all these shortcomings through exceptional performances. If boys play brave hockey with high spirits, not only India, we can beat other opponents as well,” Shahnaz concluded.

Sharing his views, Olympian Sameer Hussain, who is assisting Shahnaz, said: “We sit together after the Chinese match and discussed in detail our shortcomings. Now I am quite confident the boys will enter the Indian match with much changed planning and with clear-cut policy. People will feel the difference, as the boys will play out their hearts and deliver more than 100 percent. We are quite confident, our team will prevail against Indians.”

PAKISTAN CHANCES BLEAK TO RETAIN SQUASH TITLE: Defending Asian Games Team Squash champions Pakistan are facing elimination after suffering defeat at the hands of Hong Kong and now they have to beat Kuwait in the last Group-A match to stand chance of playing in the semifinals. The females also lost match against Indians.

Pakistan men lost to Hong Kong 2-1. In the first match, Nasir Iqbal lost to Hong Kong’s No 1 Max Lee 3-2 in 73 minutes. Nasir lost the first game 2-11, but went on to win the next two games 11-8, 12-10, before losing the fourth 10-12 and fifth and deciding one 7-11. In the second match, Farhan Zaman lost to Au Lee Ming also 2-3 in 67 minutes. Farhan was 0-2 down losing the first game 9-11, second 9-11 before winning the third 11-9 and fourth 11-4 but lost the fifth 7-11. In the third and dead rubber match, experienced Farhan Mehboob restored some pride by winning it against Tang Cheuk Yan 3-0 in 19 minutes, as the score was 11-5, 11-4, 11-5 in favour of Mehboob.

In the females’ event, Pakistan lost to India 3-0. Maria Toor lost against Dipika Palikal 2-3 in 57 minutes. Maria took comfortable 2-0 lead, as she won the first game 11-8 and second 11-7, but she lost the third game 10-12, fourth 9-11 and fifth 6-11. Muqaddas Ashraf lost to Joshona Chinappa 3-0, as the score was 4-11, 8-11, 9-11. In the third and last match, Riffat Khan lost against Aparajitha Balamurkan 3-0, with the score of 3-11, 3-11, 3-11.

NAIN EXCELS AS PAKISTAN WOMEN'S ENTER SEMIS: Nain Abidi and Asmavia Iqbal excelled with the bat and ball as defending champion Pakistan stormed into the semi-final of Asian Games women’s T20 Cricket Tournament after thrashing Thailand by 51 runs at Yeonhui Cricket Ground on Thursday.

Nain hit 40 with the help of three boundaries while Bishmah Maroof and Qanita Jail both hit 16. Pakistan recovered to score 97 for the loss of five wickets after quarter-final reduced to 14 overs due to morning rains. Thailand, in reply, was restricted to 46-7 in their 14 overs with pacer Asmavia clinched two wickets for six runs in her three overs.

Pakistan women made a poor start when opener Marina Iqbal (6) Javeria Khan (0) lost their wicket when the team’s total was 11-2 in the second over. Nain and Bismah rescued the team by adding 31-run for the third wicket. Qanita hit two boundaries in her 16 off 11 balls as Pakistan reached a respectable total against lowly-rated Thai team.

Thailand team found it tough to face Pakistan bowlers. Only left-handed opener Nattaya Boochatham top-scored with 17 off 24 without any boundary and Pundarika Prathanmitr scored nine.

PAKISTAN PLAYERS SHINE IN BADMINTON EVENTS: Pakistan badminton team played well against Macau beating them 2-0 in men’s double round of 32. M Irfan Saeed Bhatti edged out Nepal’s Ratna Jit Tamang 2-1 in the men’s singles round of 64 while Palwasha Bashir outclassed her Maldives’ opponent Aishath Afnan Rasheed 2-0 in the women’s singles round of 32.

Pak boxer Nadir enters last 16:  Pakistani boxer Nadir Hussain fought well against Sygiel Phub of Bhutan as he defeated his opponent 2-1 in round of 32 and qualified for the round of 16.

PAKISTAN BASEBALL TEAM BEAT MAGNOLIA: Pakistan team played well against Mongolian team beating them 1-0 in the second group match of baseball events of the Asian Games.

PAK KABBADI SQUAD TO LEAVE FOR KOREA TODAY: A 12-member Pakistan kabbadi squad will leave for South Korea today (Thursday) here from Allama Iqbal International Airport to take part in the Asian Games men's event.

The kabbadi competitions will commence from September 28 at the Songda Global University Gymnasium in Incheon, South Korea. Pakistan has been pooled with India in group A while other two teams in their group are Bangladesh and Thailand. Teams in group B are Iran, Japan, South Korea and Malaysia. The semifinals of both men and women competitions are scheduled for October 2 followed by the finals on the next day.