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Two-time champions India suffered a shock 4-3 defeat at the hands of Japan in the Sultan of Johor Cup Under-21 Invitational tournament at the Taman Daya Hockey Stadium in Johor Bahru on Tuesday.

It was a bad day for the Indians who won the title in 2013 and 2014 and were runners-up to Great Britain last year.

Earlier, the Indian team received news that four teenage national-level hockey players were killed when the car they traveling in crashed into a tree in Hoshangaband, Bhopal on Monday. One of those seriously injured in the crash – Akshay Awasthi – was in the SOJC training squad before he was dropped.

A minute’s silence was held as a mark of respect for those killed in the crash.

India coach B.J. Kariappa, however, said: “We were not at our best. Japan took their chances well and put four goals past us…and deserved to win.”

Japan coach Kyoichi Nagaya was all smiling with the win that has given them the confidence to face New Zealand on Wednesday and Malaysia on Friday.

“I am delighted and happy with the win. It has given us the confidence for the next two matches,” said Nagaya.

India who won big in their first two matches – 4-2 against Malaysia and 8-2 against New Zealand – was 1-0 down in the first minute when Wataru Matsumoto was on target off a penalty corner and another penalty corner goal in the 22nd minute by Kosei Kawabe gave the Japanese a 2-0 lead.

The Indians pulled one back minutes into the third quarter with Sudeep Chairmako scoring but Japan replied hit back twice through Keita Watanabe and another by Kawabe for a 4-1 lead.

India checked the slide with two goals by Sharda Nand Tiwari and Pratap Lakra in the 38th and 53rd minutes respectively. However, the Japanese tightened their game for their first in the tournament after 1-2 and 0-2 defeats to Australia and Britain respectively in the first two matches. RIZAL ABDULLAH 

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