A possible India versus Pakistan men's hockey final and a world record in tournament goal scoring is making the hockey event at the 18th Asian Games compelling viewing for spectators at the multi-sports event and those watching from around the world.
Reigning champions India (FIH Hero World Ranking: 5) and 2014 runners-up Pakistan (WR:13) have both finished their respective Pool A and B matches with maximum points after some impressive performances at the Asian Games, currently taking place in Jakarta, Indonesia.
For India, 76 goals in five matches is a world record for any international hockey competition, and sets the highest bar for the next stages of this intriguing competition.
Pakistan have scored 44 goals but have only conceded one goal, compared to three goals conceded by India. Among India’s high scoring games was a 26-0 result against Hong Kong (WR:45) and a 20-0 victory over Sri Lanka (WR:38).
However, with a maximum two matches remaining, it is not just the Indian strikers who are dominating the goal scorers’ table: the position of top goal scorer at the moment is shared between Rupinder Singh of India and Jang Jonghyun of Korea (WR:14)) who are both currently on 13 goals, the majority coming from penalty corners.
It was Korea who set the high scoring trend in the opening match of this competition, with a 11-0 victory over Hong Kong. That result, plus victories over Sri Lanka (WR: 38) and Indonesia (unranked), means Korea finished third in Pool A and will be facing Bangladesh (WR:31) in the fifth/sixth place play-off.
Second place in Pool A has been taken by Japan (WR:16), who have enjoyed a steady event so far. Japan have recorded wins over Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Hong Kong and a narrow 3-2 win over Korea. As runners-up in Pool A, Japan will face Pakistan in the second semi-final of the competition.
Pool A winners India will face Malaysia (WR:12) in the first semi-final of the Asian Games. The top-ranked team has enjoyed a faultless event so far and will be hoping to continue their winning ways.
In Malaysia, however, India face a determined opponent. Malaysia have yet to hit top form yet, as shown by their 4-1 defeat at the hands of Pakistan, but they have conceded just six goals in the competition and should never be underestimated.
Pakistan are definitely the in-form team in Pool B and, while their goal scoring credentials might not match those of India, their defensive performance has been first class. Muhammed Atiq is Pakistan’s top scorer but against Japan, Head Coach Roel Oltmans will be looking to his experienced goalkeeper Imran Butt, to help produce another clean sheet.
The men's semi-finals of the Asian Games take place on Thursday 30 August, with India taking on Malaysia at 17:30 local time (Western Indonesian Time) and Pakistan facing Japan at 20:00. The semi-final winners will then meet in the final on Saturday 1 September at 20:00 - a place in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games awaiting the Asian Games champions*.
Indonesia play Thailand (WR:47) for 9th/10th place at 12:30 on the same day and Sri Lanka take on Oman (WR:33) in the 7th/8th play-off at 15:00.
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*If Japan win, as hosts they have already qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. As a result, another Olympic Games Qualification Event match will take place at the end of 2019 as descibed in the Hockey Series Q&A .
Note: According to statistics provided by BG Joshi, the world record for goals scored in a men’s international hockey tournament was previously held by Argentina, who scored 68 goals in the 2004 Pan Am Cup held in Ontario, Canada.