The Indian men's hockey team will have to battle nerves and handle pressure effectively when it takes on defending champions Japan in the final of the Asian Games here on Friday, in its pursuit of reclaiming the gold medal at the continental showpiece after nine years. India last won the men's hockey gold in the Asian Games in 2014 in Incheon, South Korea and would be gunning for their fourth yellow metal in the quadrennial extravaganza and secure a direct ticket to next year's Paris Olympics. Indian Women's Hockey Team Loses 0-3 to China in Asian Games 2023 Semifinal, Set to Play Bronze Medal Match.

The last time India won the Gold at the Asian Games was back in 2014 in Incheon, South Korea. World no.3 India have claimed the Asian Games Gold medal thrice since the inception of Field Hockey at the Asian Games, winning the title in 1966, 1998 and in 2014. And going by their form and world ranking, India are clear favourites to win the gold here and add to their nine silver and three bronze medal at the Asian Games.

It was a disappointing outing for India in the last edition of the Games in Jakarta as they had to contend with a bronze and this time around they would look for redemption here. The Indians were menacing in the pool stages, scoring as many as 58 goals and conceding just five. But in the semifinal, India got a scare from South Korea before eventually winning 5-3 which was far from impressive.

Leading 3-0 at the first quarter, India lost their shape and buckled under Korea's pressure to concede three goals as the scoreline read 4-3 in their favour at one stage. And the Indians would be very well aware that handling pressure will be the key going into Friday's all-important title clash.

"There are always nerves at play when you enter a big match. We have been preparing for this tournament for a long time and this is the moment that we have all been waiting for. Winning the gold medal and securing a spot for the Paris Olympics has always been our target," said India captain Harmanpreet Singh. "As a team, we have to ensure we do not allow pressure of the moment to dictate our nerves, and that we continue to play freely and enjoy the game. If we are able to do that, I am confident we will be able to get the win."

It won't be easy against Japan, whom India defeated 4-2 in the pool stages.

That win will definitely give India confidence going into Friday's final, but the Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist will be wary of taking the Japanese lightly in such a big match, where a few mistakes can cost the gold medal.

"We have already picked up a win over Japan which gives us confidence. But as a team, we never take any opponents lightly. Japan will be equally motivated to avenge the loss. They can shift the momentum of the game at any time," Harmanpreet said, warning his teammates.

"We have to remain strong in our defence and not allow any leaks in the defensive third. We also have to ensure we make the most of the chances that we create, especially when we enter the circle. The team that will be able to soak up the pressure in the best way possible will be in a better position."

The two teams have met 27 times since 2013, and India have 22 wins as against Japan's thrice, while two games ended in draws.

"We have performed well in the tournament and the fact that we have conceded only eight goals, and scored 63 goals in the tournament so far, showcases that we have done well in attack and as well as in defence," India's chief coach Craig Fulton said. "But all it takes is one goal to lose the big one, so we have to be cautious. We should not allow the opposition to get away with easy chances and we keep our defensive forces strong at all points in the game." Asian Games 2023: India Men’s Hockey Team Advances to Final, Assuring Silver Medal With Convincing 5–3 Win Over South Korea.

One of the best features of India in the ongoing competition has been the fact that 15 different players have scored so far with Mandeep Singh (12) and Harmanpreet leading the pack.

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