India booked a berth in next year’s World Cup hockey as they marched into the Asia Cup final with a 2-0 win over hosts Malaysia in the semi-final at the Sultan Azlan Shah Stadium here yesterday. India took an early lead in the eighth minute through drag-flicker VR Raghunath and forward Mandeep Singh doubled it at the hour-mark.
India will face South Korea in the final here Sunday. South Korea ended Pakistan’s hopes of qualifying for the World Cup with a 2-1 win. Pakistan, record World Cup champions, will be missing the show-piece event for the first time since its inception in 1971.
India have now qualified for the World Cup, in the Dutch city of Hague, along with Korea and Malaysia. But they will have to wait for a final confirmation from the International Hockey Federation (FIH). With the odds stacked against them, India put on a spirited performance against the hosts, who were dominating but failed to convert the chances that came their way.
Having taken an early lead, India defended well and managed to cut out all the Malaysian attacks from the right-flank. Raghunath and Rupinderpal Singh manned the Indian defence well for 60 minutes before promising 18-year-old striker Mandeep doubled the lead for the visitors with just 10 minutes left for the hooter.
Malaysia’s Saari brothers — Faizal and Fitri — combined well to keep the Indian defence busy but they lacked the penetration. India goalkeeper PR Sreejesh also put up a great show to thwart the moves by the Malaysian forward line.
Malaysia enjoyed 55 percent of the ball possession as compared to India’s 45. Malaysia also had nine shots on the goal while India had seven. After the breather, Malaysia looked desperate for the equaliser but found themselves on the backfoot as a clever pass from Rupinder set-up the second goal for India.
Rupinder’s through pass from behind the centre-line found an unmarked Ramandeep Singh on the top of the circle. Ramandeep laid it for Mandeep, who dribbled the ball into an open Malaysian goal.