India takes fifth place in Asia Cup

KUANTAN, Malaysia: India took fifth place in the Asia Cup field hockey tournament when they defeated Japan 5-1 in the classification play off here on Friday.

This is the first time the Indians, who were defending champions and also won the cup in 2003, finished outside the top four in the Asia Cup.

The Indians, ranked ninth in the world, played below par but had enough in reserve to defeat the 11th ranked Japanese.

India found their goal scoring touch late in the game to walk off easy winners while Japan, having already booked their place in the World Cup Qualifiers in November, felt the result of the match was academic.

The Indians started off well when Rajpal Singh scored in the very first minute off a field goal and skipper Sandeep Singh made it 2-0 in the 21st minute when he flicked home from the penalty corner.

The match turned scrappy and a defensive lapse in the 32nd minute allowed Japan''s Hiroki Sakamoto to score a field goal before half time and the second half failed to improve the performance level of the two teams although India had the better of the proceedings.

They finally scored the third goal in the 64th minute through Tushar Khandker and three minutes later Prabhjot Singh added the fourth goal from a field attempt. Khandker then added his second goal in the 70th minute for a flattering 5-1 win.

The final of the Asia Cup will be played on Saturday with Pakistan meeting South Korea. The winner will also gain an automatic berth to the 2010 World Cup to be held in New Delhi, India. The third place play off will see hosts Malaysia against China.

The losing finalist, Malaysia, China and Japan have qualified for the World Cup Qualifiers which will be held in Lille, Auckland and Dubai in November. India have already qualified for the 2010 World Cup as hosts.