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Senior National Hockey: Top four teams to vie for final berths

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Pune, Dec 19 (IANS) Top four teams — Uttar Pradesh Hockey, Hockey Karnataka, Hockey Maharashtra and Hockey Punjab — will battle it out for a place in the final of the Hockey India Senior Men’s National Championship, here on Monday.

The first semifinal will witness Uttar Pradesh Hockey taking on Hockey Karnataka. Both teams are coming off hard-fought wins. Uttar Pradesh Hockey edged past Hockey Haryana 2-1 in the quarterfinal on Saturday.

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Speaking about their semifinal match, Uttar Pradesh Hockey coach Paramjeet Singh said, “The team is in good rhythm, and we are focused on maintaining it. It will be a challenging semifinal, but the boys are confident, and hopefully, we will do well to qualify for the final.”

Their opponents Hockey Karnataka, who are currently the second-highest goal-scoring team in the tournament (35 goals) will look to capitalise on their fine run of form.

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Hockey Karnataka coach Pradeep Kumar RP said that his team is expecting a tight match and they are prepared for it both mentally and physically.

“Firstly, Senior Nationals is not an easy tournament, every team has solid players, and of course, Uttar Pradesh Hockey is a strong team. We are expecting a tight match, anybody who makes mistakes will lose, and that’s how it is going to be on Monday. My boys are doing really well, they’ve improved match-by-match, and I think we are set for the semis. The boys are mentally prepared, and physically as well, they are in good shape,” he said.

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In the second semifinal, Hockey Maharashtra will square off against Hockey Punjab.

Hockey Maharashtra coach Edgar Joseph Mascarenhas said, “I always tell my boys to play till the final whistle, and have faith in themselves. Our goalkeeper Akash Chikte is doing really well and he will be our key player.”

“We are ready to counter Hockey Punjab; we know their style of play, and we will play the hockey that we have planned to play. It will be a tough game, no doubt, but we are prepared to play them, and it won’t be easy for them,” he added.

Hockey Punjab coach Balwinder Singh said, “It’s a young side, around 10 players are playing their nationals for the first time. I am happy with the performance so far. We have the advantage of Olympic bronze medallist Rupinder Pal Singh. He has been guiding these young players really well. The match against Hockey Maharashtra will be 50-50.”

–IANS

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