Defending champions India will face their first real test when they take on an unpredictable Japan in a pool A match at the 18th Asian Games in Jakarta on Friday.
It has been been a cakewalk for India in the opening two matches of Pool A as they demolished hosts Indonesia 17-0 before recording their biggest win in international hockey when they thrashed Hong Kong China 26-0.
With the win against Hong Kong China, India bettered their 86-year-old record when it had defeated USA with a 24-1 margin in Olympics.
Ranked fifth in the world, India would again start as overwhelming favourites, against world No 16 Japan on Friday. But it would be coach Harendra Singh and his men’s first real test in the Games as Japan are no pushovers.
India are currently leading Pool A with two wins in as many games. Korea and Japan, too, have registered two wins each but the Indians are ahead of the pack by virtue of better goal difference.
While Japan crushed Sri Lanka 11-0 in their tournament opener, they had to fight hard to get the better of lowly Indonesia 3-1 in their next game.
“For me, these two matches were practice matches. Our Asian Games are starting day after tomorrow against Japan,” India coach Harendra Singh had said after the win over Hong Kong on Wednesday.
Most of the Indian players found their name in the scoresheet in the first two games, but it remains to be seen how the Indian attack will fare against the gritty Japanese defence in the next game.
What could be a worrying factor for Harendra is that the Indian defence was hardly tested in the first two games and it remains to be seen how Sreejesh and Co deal with the pressure from the Japanese forwards in the next match.