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Friday December 7, 2012

India and Pakistan storm into Champions Trophy semis

Breaking through: India’s Gurwinder Singh (centre) dribbling past several
Belgian defenders in their quarter-final match of the Champions Trophy in
Melbourne yesterday. India won 2-1. — AFP Breaking through: India’s Gurwinder Singh (centre) dribbling past several Belgian defenders in their quarter-final match of the Champions Trophy in Melbourne yesterday. India won 2-1. — AFP

MELBOURNE: Asian hockey giants India and Pakistan continued their fine form when they qualified for the Champions Trophy semi-finals yesterday.

India, who topped Group A, edged a hard-working Belgium 1-0 in the quarter-finals while Pakistan stunned the hockey fraternity with a superb 2-1 upset of Olympic champions Germany 2-1 in Melbourne.

In the first match of the day, Pakistan played their best after a long time and are now one win away from their first Champions Trophy final since 1998.

To reach the tournament decider they will have to beat the powerful Dutch side in tomorrow’s semi-finals. Holland booked their ticket when they beat New Zealand 2-0.

Pakistan’s win was due largely to Shakeel Abbasi, who dominated and scored both of his team’s goals.

Abbasi said he believed his team could continue to do well in the tournament.

Pakistan’s victory was made even sweeter given they were forced to come back after Germany opened the scoring through skipper Moritz Fuerste. But Pakistan played well throughout the first half and were unlucky not to draw level after many scoring chances.

But Pakistan’s second and decisive goal was full of controversy.

The goal was scored by Abbasi but Germany referred the decision claiming it should not have been awarded as the ball initially came off the back of the stick of a Pakistani player before making its way to Abbasi.

Holland were pleased to progress to the last four, yet coach Paul van Ass said he didn’t feel his team played their best.

India grimly hung on to an early lead to prevail 1-0 over Belgium to advance. The goal that settled the fate of the quarter-finals contest came in the 13th minute of the first shot India had at the rival goal.

India are now in the hunt for their first medal since their lone Champions Trophy bronze in 1982. This will also be India’s highest finish since 2004 when they had lost the bronze medal match to end fourth.

In the semi-finals, India will take on four-time defending champions Australia, who beat England 2-0. — Agencies

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