JAKARTA: Japan took the wind out of Pakistan sails when they defeated the former champions 1-0 in Asian Games 2018 hockey tournament at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium here Thursday, disqualifying the country from reaching the finals. With this humiliating defeat against the minnows, all the tall claims made by the incompetent Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) officials bit the dust. Pakistan had entered the semi-finals as the top team of Group B after beating Thailand, Oman, Kazakhstan, Bangladesh and Malaysia. But Pakistan were shocked as Japan came like a bolt from the blue. In the first semi-final, Malaysia managed to defeat India after a penalty shootout. Pakistan and India will be competing for the bronze medal. Japan twice reached the victory stand, bronze in 1966 and 1970. In the previous Asian Games, they might be considered unlucky as on no less than seven times, Japan finished fourth. They attained fifth spot twice and ended sixth on four occasions. Pakistan are of course the most successful team with eight gold, three silver and three bronze medals. Pakistan’s performance in the Asian Games 2018 has been swept a way of disappointment over the country as it finished in the last four with only three medals, amongst the 37 participating countries, just above Afghanistan, Myanmar and Syria. Pakistan had the first opportunity but Ali Shan’s attempt went out in the seventh minute. Then onward, Japan had more of the play in the first half. They had two open play chances as well as two penalty corners. Off the second penalty corner, Shota Yamada’s strong flat push went through goalkeeper Imran Butt’s pads. Pakistan appeared a completely transformed side in the third period. Employing their traditional short passing game, they repeatedly entered the opponent’s circle from both the sides but lacked the finishing. The two penalty corners coming their way were also wasted. Japan hardly entered Pakistan’s circle during these 15 minutes. The green shirts had the third penalty corner in the first minute of the fourth period but again failed to make it count. However, Japanese managed to weather the storm and regained composure. The last quarter was evenly played. Chances came to both the sides but there wasn’t any dangerous attempt. The hooter sounded for the final time and the Japanese erupted into joyous celebration.India lose to Malaysia on penalties: Earlier, it was heartbreak for India as they went down to Malaysia 6-7 in the penalty shoot-out in the first semi-final. Defending champions India were knocked out of the gold medal contention and denied a direct entry into the 2020 Olympics, with Malaysia again proving to be their Achilles heel. Malaysia, who had beaten India in the last-four stage eight years ago at Guangzhou, made their wasteful opponents pay for their mistakes, both in regulation time and shoot-off. Both teams were tied at 2-2 after 60 minutes. India conceded a late goal to push the match into shoot-off after Harmanpreet Singh and Varun Kumar had scored from penalty corners in the 33rd and 40th minute. Malaysia struck through Faizal Saari (39th min) and Muhammad Razie, who found the all-important equaliser less than two minutes before the end of regulation time. In the shoot-off, it was anyone’s game and Malaysia handled the nerves better to make their second Asiad final. India, who had come into the encounter as runaway favourites, had scored a record 76 goals in the group stage. Published in Daily Times, August 31st 2018.