While the Indians got the better of Japan by a 2-0 margin in a match that was dominated by midfield tussles, the Koreans led Canada by six goals to nil but allowed Paul Bundy's side to score thrice in the last fifteen minutes before earning full points with a scoreline that read 6-3.
Japan's coach, Siegfried Aikman spoke to Sportskeeda after the opener and reckoned that his side matched Manpreet and co. but allowed them more possession than they should have, adding that the Indians were a bit lucky on the day.
India's second goal, incidentally, came after the Japanese had taken off their goalie in an all-out effort to equalize.
"It was very close - they scored the second goal when we played powerplay - they had only a few shots on goal. We allowed them ball possession in their own half and that was it. We wanted to reduce the number of goals against - and that’s what we did in the third quarter."
"They didn’t come close to our goal in the fourth quarter - when we played all or nothing they scored the second. It was a well-deserved win because they scored two times - but they were the lucky team today."
Two age-old Asian rivals will face-off on Sunday with the fifth-ranked Indians starting off as favourites against a Korean side who have fallen behind in recent times.
The South Koreans announced their entry into the big league at the Seoul Asiad in 1986, as they gradually dethroned traditional continental supremos India and Pakistan en route to an Olympic silver medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, but seem to have lost their way of late, and are currently ranked seventeenth.
Despite the decline, however, the speedy Koreans remain a force to reckon with, often preferring to sit deep after scoring a few from the drag-flick routines which they are particularly good at - a trait that the Indian team-management is well aware of.
At the 2017 Asia Cup in Dhaka, a last-minute goal from Gurjant Singh saved India the blushes after the Koreans had subdued Sjoerd Marijne's side with some dogged man-to-man marking and managed to take a one-goal lead midway through the third quarter.
The Koreans were also the first side to trouble the marauding Indians at the Jakarta Asian Games after Harendra Singh's chargers had scored 51 goals in 3 matches and were looking quite invincible.
Sitting pretty with a 3-0 lead at half-time, Sreejesh and co. looked to be coasting along to yet another huge win when Jung Manjae scored two goals in as many minutes immediately after the long breather to breathe new life into the contest before the Indians came away with a 5-3 win.
At the Asian Champions Trophy, last October, a 4-1 scoreline in India's favour was not reflective of how close the contest really was, especially since the Koreans had a goal from a free-hit disallowed, and Harmanpreet Singh got his hat-trick after the goalie had been taken off.
Coach Shin Seok Kyo's side have done well to get past the tenth-ranked Canadians and will look to spring yet another surprise, but the young Indians are unlikely to be ruffled early in the competition especially since they have a point or two to prove to fans and detractors alike.
Here is how you can catch all the action
Event: Sultan Azlan Shah Cup 2019
Venue: Ipoh, Malaysia
Date: 24 March 2019
Time: 1:35 pm Indian Standard Time (IST)
Telecast: No telecast in India
Live Streaming: Details awaited
Live Updates: Sportskeeda
Given the fact that the Koreans have traditionally sought to defend in numbers against teams like India - and that three of their goals against Canada came off drag-flicks, PCs may well be a key factor in determining the final outcome of the match.
Score Prediction: India 3 - South Korea 1Published 23 Mar 2019, 19:03 IST