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India, Pakistan set for intriguing semifinal encounter

India, Pakistan set for intriguing semifinal encounter
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Instead of rewarding performances in the preliminary league, all eight teams were assured of reaching the quarterfinals, a round which turned the tournament on its head, and left some teams quietly fuming.

The top four teams in the league, England, the Netherlands, Argentina and Belgium, were all knocked out in Thursday’s round of eight, while the bottom four sailed through to the semifinal.

The format also helped new-look world champions Australia, seeking a sixth successive title, and Olympic gold-medallists Germany recover from shaky starts to line up for Saturday’s other semifinal.

Hosts India, ranked ninth in the world, fought back from a 0-2 deficit to beat number four Belgium 4-2. Eleventh-ranked Pakistan stunned the Dutch by a similar margin after losing all their three league matches.

The Germans knocked out England 2-0 and Australia ousted Argentina 4-2. Dutch coach Max Caldas had been wary of the format from the start. “If you lose all three league games, you could still win the tournament and I think that’s bad,” he had said earlier in the week.

In contrast, the surviving teams could not hide their glee. “Although I am not in favour of this (format), on Friday I don’t mind it,” Australia coach Graham Reid said on Thursday. German captain Moritz Furste added: “In this situation it is good for us. It has given us a lease of life. We can go on to win the tournament from here.” Pakistan coach Shahnaz Shaikh tempered his joy with a suggestion. “To make this format fair to everyone, a handicap of one goal should be given to the table-toppers,” he said.

Millions of fans across India and Pakistan will tune in to what should be a rousing semifinal, a repeat of the Asian Games gold medal clash in South Korea in last October which India won via penalty shoot-out.

Pakistan to unleash 9-11 attack on India

Aiming to outwit India in the Champions Trophy semifinals, the Pakistan hockey team has devised a rather controversially-titled 9-11 strategy which they plan to unleash at the Kalinga Stadium on Saturday. “We will go with our 9-11 strategy against India on Saturday. Wait, don’t misunderstand me it’s not that 9-11 which you are thinking. It’s a strategy that we have adopted. By 9-11 I mean we will attack with nine players leaving behind two at the back and defend with 11 players. So I call it 9-11,” said Pakistan coach Shahnaz Sheikh, the classy center-forward of yesteryears who was a member of Pakistan’s silver-medal winning team in 1972 Munich Olympics. 9-11 is usually referred to the infamous terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York. On September 11, 2001, the world was rocked when a series of four coordinated terrorist attacks were launched by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda upon the United States in New York City and the Washington, DC, metropolitan area. The attacks, which killed 2,996 people and caused at least $10 billion in property and infrastructure damage, was carried out by 19 al-Qaeda terrorists.
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