IPOH (Malaysia): India suffered a massive blow in their quest for direct entry in next year’s FIH World Cup after losing 4-3 to South Korea in the final of the ninth Asia Cup on Sunday while Pakistan clinched bronze.
A dramatic Kang Moon Kweon strike two minutes from time helped defending champions South Korea reaffirm their status as Asia’s best after a pulsating clash in which they led 2-0 at the end of the first-half at the Azlan Shah Stadium.
The Koreans raced into a 2-0 lead, courtesy a penalty-corner strike by Jang Jong Hyun in the 28th minute before You Hyo Sik surprised the Indians with a field goal in the very next minute.
India came back in the second-half through drag-flicker Rupinderpal Singh in the 48th minute and leveled seven minutes later when young striker Nikin Thimmaiah scored an opportunistic goal.
Nam Hyun-woo restored the lead for the Koreans in the 57th minute but only to see Mandeep Singh score from close range in the 66th minute.
As a penalty shootout loomed the Koreans earned a penalty corner and instead of taking a direct hit the Koreans played a variation and Kang made no mistake to flick home the winner to break Indian hearts.
India, who had gone into the final with an unbeaten record, are virtually assured of a spot in next year’s World Cup but will now have to wait till November for the confirmation.
If Fiji win the Oceania Championship, slated for November this year, India will lose its spot in the next year’s World Cup.
Already out of next year’s World Cup, Pakistan had something to cheer about as the three-time champions defeated hosts Malaysia 3-1 in the third-fourth placing playoff.
Pakistan, who needed to win the Asia Cup to qualify for next year’s World Cup at The Hague, Netherlands, dished out a spirited performance to prevail over the erring Malaysians.
Malaysia took the lead through Faizal Saari in the 34th minute. However, Pakistan levelled the score a minute later with Abdul Haseem Khan scoring his first for the day.
Captain Mohammad Imran gave his country the lead with a field goal in the 54th minute while Haseem scored his second two minutes later to put the match beyond the Malaysians.
Malaysian Hockey Confederation president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah was clearly disappointed with the outcome.
“They (Malaysian players) did their best by going after the Pakistani goal but were let down by poor finishing,” he told reporters.
Pakistan, a regular in the Hockey World Cup since its inception in 1971, however, will not be present for the 13th edition next year having lost to South Korea 2-1 in the semi-final.
That failure has led to coach Tahir Zaman hinting that he will step down from his position.
“Well, I am not really very much keen [to continue]. Still one game to go may be I will step down after the last game,” Tahir said ahead of the Malaysia game.
“Now we need to see how we can plan out long-term programmes rather looking for short-term planning which I believe is more important.”