The curtain on the 10th Men’s Asia Cup Hockey rises today with hosts Bangladesh facing mighty Pakistan in the second match of the day under the newly-installed floodlights at the Maulana Bhasani National Hockey Stadium. The match will kick-off at 5:30pm after the opening encounter between India and Japan, which will start at 3:00pm. STAR SPORTS 2 will live telecast all the matches of the eight-nation tournament.
The last time Bangladesh hosted the prestigious tournament was way back in 1985.
The two teams last met in the 2016 South Asian Games in February in India, where Bangladesh lost to Pakistan 3-0.
Bangladesh and Pakistan have played each other five times in Asia Cup with Pakistan winning in all the occasions.
However, Pakistan’s recent form has been poor as they lost five of their seven matches in the Hockey World League, which including two big defeats against arch-rivals India.
Many of the Pakistan national team players have played in last year’s Premier Division Hockey League in Dhaka, which Bangladesh captain Russell Mahmud Jimmy thought would give them some advantages rather.
‘Everyone is predicting that Pakistan will win the match easily,’ said Jimmy.
‘But I would like to think differently. It all will depend on how we react in the field. We have a clear idea over five to six Pakistani players after playing with them in Dhaka League last year.
‘Nevertheless, we have to put an extraordinary performance to beat such a talented side.’
Jimmy also wants to make a good impression in the very first match.
‘We also believe that playing well in the first match is very important,’ he said.
Bangladesh put one of their finest ever performance against Pakistan in the second edition of the Asia Cup in 1985, a game which they lost after conceding a goal two minutes from the time.
Bangladesh coach Mahbub Harun believed that their great performance against Pakistan 32-year ago would put some extra-pressure on the current squad.
‘Actually, that history  will put the current side under pressure,’ said Harun.
‘In front of home crowd, officials, media, the boys are capable of taking enough pressure but they must perform well.
‘I think the boys are now mentally ready to face any big opponent.’
Harun also said that would take to insert a positive attitude in the team before Pakistan today.
‘We are hoping to produce good results at home. We will play positive hockey whatever the margin would be.
‘I have told my boys to try to gain the ball possession as much as they can which always helps to create chances.’
‘We know, realistically, Pakistan is ahead of us in every aspect. But we will try to fight against them till the final whistle.’
Pakistan, ranked 14th in the world at the moment, 20 places ahead of Bangladesh, had an hour-long training session on Tuesday evening.
Pakistan captain Mohammad Irfan was confident of making a positive start against the home team.
‘We respect all of our opponents because every team came here with good preparation,’ Irfan said.
‘We also had good preparation in Islamabad and now we are looking to make a good start.
‘We have no scope to take Bangladesh lightly because they have some talented players. If we take them lightly, it would be suicidal for us.’
-With New Age input