Japan's 'Samurai hockey' pays dividends in SAS Cup

IPOH: Japan's Tsubasa Tanaka has set his eyes on beating Pakistan in tomorrow's top-of-the-table clash at the Sultan Azlan Shah (SAS) Cup. Ranked No. 16 in the world, the Samurais have emerged as a surprise package in Ipoh.

They defeated world No. 12 South Korea (2-1) and No. 10 New Zealand (4-1) in their opening two matches, collecting six points.

Meanwhile, world No. 15 Pakistan also have six points following victories over No. 13 Malaysia (5-4) and South Korea (4-0).

Pakistan lead the standings over Japan on goal difference.

Tanaka, who has scored a goal in his two senior caps in Ipoh, is part of the long-term project for Japanese hockey to qualify for the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.

He said the team are following the 'Samurai' hockey principle imposed by coach Yoshihiro Anai.

"We are focused on playing our 'Samurai' hockey principle; we are going to make penetrations as a team and focus on what we need to do," said Tanaka, who picked up hockey when he was 12 years old.

"I hope I can score more goals against Pakistan in our next game."

Tanaka, who comes from the famed Tenri University for their hockey programme, was encouraged by his parents, who played hockey leisurely, to pick up the sport.

The 20-year-old, who has been playing hockey from the national Under-12 to the senior level, said the wins over South Korea and New Zealand were the result of the players' determination.

"I am very excited about the wins. We followed our coach's instructions and played an attacking game."



Canada v South Korea (4pm)

Pakistan v Japan (6.15pm)

Malaysia v New Zealand (8.30pm)

* Matches at Azlan Shah Stadium, Ipoh

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