Asian Champions Trophy 2018: Semifinal, India vs Japan preview, telecast, date, start time and where to watch online
Samurai Japan began their Asian Champions Trophy campaign on a disastrous note, going down 0-3 to Malaysia - the team they had narrowly beaten in the dramatic Jakarta final, and did a wee bit better when they overcame a struggling South Korean side who went on to be eliminated alongside Oman.
The Asian Games gold medalists were at their best against Pakistan and managed to pull off a creditable draw before disposing of hosts, Oman in the inconsequential final pool match of the tournament.
Yet, Siegfried Aikman's young side were all at sea against a rampaging Indian outfit at Muscat, just as their more seasoned counterparts were against Sreejesh and co. at the Asian Games. The victory margin at Muscat read 9-0 as a followup to the 8-0 thrashing in the pool game at Jakarta.
So, will the second semifinal of the Asian Champions Trophy be a virtual no-contest?
Not necessarily, going by what Aikman told Sportskeeda in an earlier interview as he summed up the Asian Games encounter against India.
"The match in which India beat us was a group match, and we played a different strategy than what we would have adopted in a knockout match."
"We tried to close the gap but because India lost the semifinals, we will never know how we would have done against them in the finals. One thing is clear for me - we were ready for them. But again, I can’t prove it."
Aikman, an FIH Master Coach, has conducted training sessions for coaches the world over - the list includes India's very own Harendra Singh. The Dutchman does know what he is talking about when he makes the distinction between a pool match and a high-pressure do-or-die encounter.
After all, Harendra's boys were cruising along and looked pretty invincible following the pool stages at Jakarta having scored an astounding 76 goals and had sunk many a record along the way.
Who could have imagined that the same marauding bunch of goal-machines would be unable to get their side over the line in the all-important semifinal, and transform elation into gloom in the space of just over sixty minutes?
At Muscat, India's in-form men up front seemed to hit a road-block against the Malaysians and the Indian defence seemed porous, on occasion, against the speedy Koreans.
Yet, the positives in the Indian camp have, by far, outnumbered the few deficiencies, with youngsters like Hardik Singh demonstrating immense skill and maturity, while comeback man Gurjant Singh has been combining fairly well with Akashdeep, Lalit, and Mandeep in the striking circle.
Harmanpreet Singh has sounded a stern warning to India's adversaries ahead of the World Cup with his powerful and accurate drag-flicks, and even with India's obvious vulnerability in pressure situations (which Aikman outlined in his interview), it will need something close to a miracle for the Japanese to upset the defending champions.
Half a dozen gold medalists who were part of the Japanese squad at Jakarta have not made it to Muscat, and Manpreet and co. start as the overwhelming favourites even while Aikman's charges will look to offer significantly more resistance this time around.
Event: Asian Champions Trophy 2018
Venue: Muscat, Oman
Date: 27 October 2018
Time: 10:40 pm Indian Standard Time (IST)
Telecast: Star Sports 2, Star Sports HD2
Live Streaming: Hotstar
Live Updates: Sportskeeda