Indo-Pak hockey rivalry set to light up CWG
Gold Coast: A sporting clash which is never short of political undertones, India and Pakistan will be up against each other in their Commonwealth Games hockey opener here on Saturday -- a match touted as the blockbuster showdown of the preliminary stage.
"We start favourites," declared India coach Sjoerd Marijne after his two-time defending silver-medallist team's practice session here on Friday. More than the politics though, Marijne was concerned about the high temperatures in Gold Coast for their Group B match.
"It's really hot, 28-29 degrees and we play at 2:30pm (Local Time), so, that will be difficult circumstances. That's why we have to stay calm for ourselves," he said.
Also he doesn't want his side to panic if an early goal doesn't come along.
"If it is happening, it is good, if not then we have to be patient. Let the ball do the work."
The two sides' last Commonwealth Games face-off happened eight years ago in the 2010 Delhi edition and it turned out to be a memorable outing for both for contrasting reasons.
The Indians ended up jubilant after slamming seven goals, while the Pakistanis were left to agonise after securing just four in that match.
Overall, the record stands 1-1 between the two sides as Pakistan had the last laugh in the 2006 Games in Melbourne.
The two teams squared off most recently at last year's Asia Cup in Bangladesh where India claimed the honours.
Here at the Games, the two south asian rivals are placed in a group that also features England, Wales and Malaysia.
The Indians are favourites to advance along with England and they would be aiming to get the perfect start. And what better to get the adrenaline going than beating the nemesis from across the border.
In fact, the Indians simply dominated Pakistan in all the four clashes the two teams were involved in last year.
Under the guidance of new coach Marijne, form also seems to be on India's side, having claimed the Asia Cup in October.
Marijne took over compatriot Roelant Oltmans, who is now the Pakistan coach, after being dumped by Hockey India.