Edition seven of the Asia Cup women’s championship enters the homestretch in Bangkok, Thailand on Friday when the competition resumes with the semi-finals slated for the afternoon.

By S. Thyagarajan

All the four teams—the champion, Japan, and former title holders, Korea, China and India—are a step away from clinching the two automatic qualifier slots for the next BDO FIH World Cup in Rosario, Argentina.

Which two among the four will accomplish this? It is a fascinating poser that invests the semi-finals with extraordinary significance.

If statistics is the yardstick, Korea, which faces India, enjoys a higher rating. In the five matches played, Korea has slammed 59 goals with two conceded against Japan in the needle match.

Kang Keon Wook, the stalwart of men’s hockey at the turn of the century—he was the captain of the team at the Sydney Olympics, where the team picked up a silver—has worked hard with the players.

Everyone looks to the gangling penalty corner flicker, Seul Ke Cheon, who leads the table with 12 goals thus far. More than that, Korea’s systematic and swift attacks are cause for concern any defence.

India needs to cover a lot of gaps if it is to make a match of it against the Koreans. India touched the fringes of defeat against the spirited Malaysians and managed only a 1-1 draw. The verdict gave the team only a second spot to China.

“We were lucky not to lose,” admitted chief coach, M.K.Kaushik.

Japan has been extremely methodical without any frills to its direct approach. Miura is an outstanding striker as it Sato Masaka.

China is peaking rather slowly, but has a splendid striker in Ma Yibo, and a thinking coach in Kim Ryul.

For the enthusiasts, the semi-finals should offer an exciting fare.

Friday’s schedule: 5-8: Malaysia v Hong Kong; Kazakhstan v Singapore; (semi-finals) China v Japan; India v Korea.