(Photo: FIH)

A 0-0 draw against Japan saved hockey giant Pakistan in the pool phase of the men’s event at the Asian Games in Doha, Qatar. The Pakistani were in serious trouble after an unexpected draw against Malaysia last Monday, but finally clinched a semifinal spot at the most important Asian sporting event in which the two finalists will be qualified for the 2008 Olympic Games. Earlier on Sunday, India dropped out of the Final Four despite a 1-1 draw against Korea,

The men’s hockey tournament at the Asian Games is an event of surprises. Pakistan, one of the medal favorites, didn’t start the tournament well. The 1-1 draw against Malaysia in the opening match put the Pakistani into problems.

The only way to get out of the trouble was at least a draw against Japan on the last day of the preliminary pool phase. After Malaysia defeated Taipei 9-0, both Pakistan and Japan knew that a draw would be enough for both teams to proceed to the semifinals, because of a better goal difference. Both Pakistan and Japan were too afraid to lose and that’s why the match finished in a 0-0 draw. Thanks to this result, Pakistan proceeds to the semifinals as pool A winner, while Japan reaches the Final Four as number two of the group.

In earlier Sunday action, hockey giant India dropped out of the Final Four despite a 1-1 draw against tournament favorite Korea. The Indians finished their preliminary round as the third ranked team of pool B, just behind Korea and China. It is the first time in hockey history that India will not be among the medal winners at the Asian Games.

Indian coach Baskaran Vasudevan confirmed that it was not the match against Korea that ended the Indian hopes, but the loss against China some matches earlier. ‘It was a good game, the team played their game, but it was unlucky for us,’ he stated. ’We had a chance to score in the last two minutes, but we're not complaining about this game. It's the China game we were disappointed with. It's disappointing for us, we need to steady up our forwards, penalty corners are more important in hockey. We played a perfect game against Korea, it's a shame we couldn't play like this against China. That was the game that affected us and our place in the tournament. The match against China was pathetic and I don't want to say any more about it.’

In Tuesday’s semifinals, Pakistan will meet China while Japan will face Korea. The two winners of these matches will not only play for the Asian Games gold on Thursday, but the two finalists will also be qualified for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

Action in Doha, Qatar continues on Monday with the last two matches in the women’s preliminary round scheduled.

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