BANGALORE: India rode on Pakistan’s defeat at the men’s Asia Cup on Friday to assure themselves of a berth at next year’s World Cup in The Hague, Netherlands.
South Korea did Sardar Singh’s men a big favour with a 2-1 victory in the first semifinal in Ipoh which considerably lessened the number of aspirants for the three vacant World Cup slots.
Nine teams, including Korea, have already qualified for the global competition.
Later, Korea’s good turn apparently inspired the Indians to reach the title round with a 2-0 win over Malaysia. VR Raghunath and Mandeep scored for India.
Having defeated Korea 2-0 earlier in the league, India will look for a repeat in Sunday’s final. A cup triumph will give them a direct ticket to Hague.
The team that the world will miss at the global bash next year would be Pakistan. Quite an irony that the nation would be absent for the first time from a tournament it helped conceive in 1971.
Three-time champions Pakistan’s ouster is another indication of the plummeting fortunes of the sub-continental teams. With India having missed the Beijing Olympics bus in 2008, the wheel has come full circle.
The complex qualification system, which shifted the primacy to the International Hockey Federation’s (FIH) World League semifinals, put paid to Pakistan’s hopes.
The first six qualifiers were selected from the two WL semifinals in Rotterdam and Johor Bahru. The top three teams from Johor Bahru – Germany, Argentina and England – qualified along with Belgium, Australia and the Netherlands (Rotterdam). But with the Dutch already having qualified as hosts, New Zealand (fourth in Rotterdam) made the grade.
The FIH wait list for the remaining five slots read thus: Korea (4th in Johor Bahru), Spain (5th in Rotterdam), Malaysia (5th in Johor Bahru) and India (6th in Rotterdam). Spain were placed ahead of Malaysia thanks to their superior ranking.
Korea were confirmed as the eighth qualifier two weeks ago when Argentina emerged as the Pan American champions.
With the South American nation having already qualified thanks to a second-place finish at Johor Bahru, Korea were immediately handed a World Cup ticket.
They were followed by Spain, who took the slot on offer in Europe although they finished fifth in the continental meet at Boom. Luckily for them, the four teams which finished ahead of them had already earned WC berths.
Though India left for Ipoh with the sole objective of winning the Asia Cup, they knew that the qualification process had left the door ajar for them to sneak in. Pakistan winning the Asia Cup would have ended their chances but that was not to be.
As of now, Malaysia will make the grade if Korea win the final on Sunday. India will then have to wait for the result in the Oceania championship, which over the years has been reduced to a two-horse race between Australia and New Zealand.
With both the teams having already qualified, India will occupy the 11th slot. The African continent will throw up the 12th qualifier.
Results (Semifinals): India 2 (VR Raghunath 8pc, Mandeep Singh 60) beat Malaysia 0; Korea 2 (Jang Jong Hyun 31, Lee Nam Yong 40) beat Pakistan 1 (Md Imran 46).