The last match between India and Japan ended in a draw that was dominated by the host but frustratingly defended by the reigning Asian Games champion to blunt the battery of Indian attacks.
On Friday, India will be looking to find a way to break that down as it seeks a spot in the final of the Asian Champions Trophy 2023.
Having finished unbeaten on top of the pool table, India will be looking to go all the way as it builds up to the big-ticket Asian Games in just over a month.
The ACT will be the last competitive outing for the team and a final chance for Craig Fulton to fine-tune his plans and see his players in action before the home stretch of training and finalising his squad.
But it won’t be easy.
Japan finished fourth on the table, its lone win in the last league match enough to put it above Pakistan but the team has constantly pushed its opponents even in games it has lost.
It is also the only team to have denied India’s battery of drag-flickers with Raiki Fujishima, Shota Yamada and Ken Nagayoshi repeatedly making suicidal runs during PC defence.
India will still be the favourite, with the team’s cohesion getting better with each outing.
The strikers are still missing chances but India’s plans have worked so far – the balance between field goal attempts and PCs has been more even and Selvam Karthi, Akashdeep Singh and Mandeep Singh are getting more shots on target.
The defence has tightened up too – Amit Rohidas and Varun Kumar doing the duty even as Manpreet Singh and Harmanpreet Singh kept moving as defensive freemen.
A day’s rest will also help the team. Going by the performance India put up against Pakistan and with PR Sreejesh lining up for his 300th international cap, a repeat should be enough to sail through.
As India coach Craig Fulton said after the Pakistan game, “the tournament starts now”.
- Australia vs Pakistan Live Score, U19 World Cup 2024 semifinal: PAK 82/5 (30); Beardman removes Arshad
- Paris Olympics medallists to take piece of Eiffel Tower home
- Former Manchester United star Lingard joins South Korea’s FC Seoul
- NBA 2023-24 roundup: Jaden Ivey, Pistons stun Kings
- Introduce squash in schools and hire experts to train Indian coaches, says Saurav Ghosal