Men's FIH Series Finals: Semifinals - India vs Japan preview, prediction, telecast, date, start time and where to watch online
A mouthwatering contest is on the cards with Asia's top-ranked side all set to take on the reigning Asian Games champions in the semifinals of the Bhubaneswar leg of the FIH Series Finals.
While the Japanese will compete hard for ranking points and pride, the stakes for the home side are considerably higher.
By virtue of being the hosts, Siegfried Aikman's Japan do not need to take the qualification route to Tokyo 2020, but the eight-time Olympic gold-medalists, India, have all to play for in front of a passionate Odisha crowd who will no doubt hope to cheer their heroes into Saturday's final which will be sufficient to progress to the qualifiers.
Shock losses in knockouts have proven to be the bane of a young side whose performances last year won them laurels and led to an elevation in their world rankings as well.
As such, Manpreet Singh and co. have a golden opportunity to prove to themselves and to the hockey world that the Indians can cope with pressure just as well as any other team.
Graham Reid's strikers will need to coalesce a lot better than they did in the pool matches and the defensive unit will need to keep an eye out for Kenta Tanaka and Kenji Kitazato who can cause significant damage up front.
Shota Yamada and Hirotaka Zendana have managed to direct many a crucial drag-flick into the back of the net and the Indians can ill afford to concede too many.
Harmanpreet Singh has been a bit wayward with his PCs thus far but will need to fire on target in the big semifinal as will Varun and Amit Rohidas.
The Indian forward line will be hoping that young Vivek and Nilankanta Sharma can feed them enough through-balls to unsettle the combined experience of skipper Manabu Yamashita who will man Japan's back lines along with Yamada and Zendana.
The Japanese can take heart from a couple of close contests against their higher-ranked rivals - a narrow 2-3 loss in the semifinal of the Asian Champions Trophy last year was followed by another hard-fought 0-2 defeat to India in the Azlan Shah Cup earlier this year.
Yet, Aikman's boys have yet to come into their own at Bhubaneswar and will have to contend with a vociferous crowd - and an Indian team who will, no doubt, raise their game for the biggest encounter of all.
Here is how you can catch all the action
Event: Men's FIH Series Finals 2019
Venue: Bhubaneswar, India
Date: 14 June 2019
Time: 7:15 pm Indian Standard Time (IST)
Telecast: Star Sports, Star Sports HD
Live Streaming: Hotstar
Live Updates: Sportskeeda
The Japanese are unlikely to hold back, and an early goal can make all the difference for the Indians in this high-pressure encounter. The Indian tackling in the striking circle will need to clean, as Aikman's side will be aiming to earn PCs on the prowl which they seem to be particularly good at.