BHUBANESWAR, India (AP): A measure of the anticipation for the Pakistan vs India semifinal in the Champions Trophy could be seen in the kilometer-long queue outside the ticket office at Kalinga Stadium, before the sun had risen on Friday.
A day after the teams won their quarterfinals in upsets, it didn t take long for their showdown on Saturday to be sold out, and black market tickets reportedly going for 10 times their worth in rupees.
The matchup also answered a wish by Pakistan coach Shahnaz Sheikh, who complained this week his cash-strapped side was suffering for not playing more often with its neighbors, especially India.
“We hope bilateral series between the two teams are revived very soon,” Sheikh said.
“The pressure is on them (on Saturday) because the crowds are coming in to watch them,” he added. “We ve achieved our goal of reaching the last four, and a win against India will be a step ahead.”
The other semifinal, reduced to mere curtainraiser status, pits world champion Australia against Olympic champion Germany.
Pakistan leads the rivalry with India in the Champions Trophy, and has been the far more successful team, but India has enjoyed more success this year. India reached the final of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, and while it lost to Pakistan in the preliminaries at the Asian Games, India beat Pakistan in the final in a shootout, qualifying for the 2016 Olympics.
Beating three-time champ Pakistan on Saturday would secure India only its second ever Trophy medal, after a bronze 32 years ago.
“The team is on a high,” said India high performance director Roelant Oltmans, standing in as coach after Terry Walsh resigned last month. “We re getting closer to the top and now we have a 75 percent chance of finishing with a medal, which will be very big for India.
“There are a lot of expectations when you are playing Pakistan. We have our plans in place, but the execution has to be strategic rather than emotional.”
India beat Belgium 4-2 from 2-0 down, and Pakistan shocked the Netherlands by the same score.
Australia, seeking a sixth consecutive Trophy title, will meet Germany for the first time since the 2012 London Olympics, and a first in the Trophy since 2010.
Australia started slow with a loss to England and conceding a draw to Belgium, but has since rounded into form with wins against Pakistan and Argentina.
Germany, with seven of the 2013 Junior World Cup squad, opened with a win over India, then was crushed by the Dutch and Argentines. But they produced a remarkable defensive performance to shut out England in Thursday quarterfinals.