Japan and Korea aim to end India and Pakistan’s mercurial run in tomorrow’s semi-finals of the 8th Men’s Junior Asia Cup at the Wisma Belia Hockey Stadium.
The Japanese have never won the Junior Asia Cup while the Koreans emerged champions in the 4th edition of Asia’s premier junior tournament in 2000 Kuala Lumpur.
But all that is history now and both nations, who are through to the Junior World Cup in New Delhi next year, are hungry for success, more so Japan.
Japan takes on India, champions in 2004 and 2008, while Korea faces three-time winners Pakistan in the semi-finals.
“We are prepared to face India once again. They won 2-1 in the group match and we will not allow that to happen,” said Japan’s head coach Takahiko Yamabori at a pre-match press conference today.
Though Takahiko will not be with the team in New Delhi next year as he is likely to be promoted to the senior ranks as coach, it is his burning desire to see Japan clinch the Junior Asia Cup for the first time.
“We have accomplished our first target of qualifying for the Junior World Cup. Now we want to win the Asia Junior Cup… Japan has never been anywhere near and this is a good time,” added Takahiko.
The Koreans are equally exited after producing some magical moments against Malaysia in the quarterfinals.
“There are no injuries in the team although the players are a little exhausted after Malaysia’s match. It’s been 15 years ago since we last won the Asia Cup and if my players play like they did against Malaysia anything is possible,” said Korean head coach Jang Jung Min.
“We take great pride in every game we play and always look to a win. India is a great team so my players are more determined to continue playing at the highest best,” he added.
India and Pakistan, however, are not throwing caution to the wind against their East Asia semi-finals opponents.
Harendra Singh, head coach of the Indian team, said as much as he respects the prowess of the Japanese who are capable of turning the game around if given the opportunity, they will play accordingly to their strength and strategy.
“I am not looking at Japan. I am only interested at how my players perform. They must be mentally and physically strong for 70 minutes. Even if you are leading 3-1 the game is not over until the technical bench blows the horn. This is what I inculcate into my players,” added the senior Indian coach. “There is no room for complacency.”
Pakistan’s Tahir Zaman echoed: “Our second mission here is as same as our first. Having qualified for the World Cup we look to the semi-finals with same thoughts. Yes, Korea is a team with great character and it will be fatal to take them lightly. There is a lesson we all have learned when they beat Malaysia, coming back strongly to win.”
The semi-finals of the Asia Junior Cup are going to be an explosive affair.