Defeating India would be best birthday gift for me: Ashraf

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Lahore, Feb.27 (ANI): Pakistan hockey captain Zeeshan Ashraf is hoping to hand over a crushing defeat to India in the opening match of the World Cup on Sunday to make his 32nd birthday extra special.

Describing the encounter between the two arch rivals as one of the most important games of his life, Ashraf said he is eagerly waiting for the match.

"It is one of the most important matches of my life. Hope I can gift myself a win because no team can afford to lose the first match of a tournament," The Nation quoted Ashraf, as saying.

Both India and Pakistan would be trying hard to start their World Cup campaign with a win in the match, tickets of which have been sold out.

India, which earned a seat in the tournament as being the hosts of the tournament, would like to wash off the humiliation of not being able to qualify for the Beijing Olympics, while Pakistan, which finished last in Beijing, would also be eyeing its first major title after 1994.

Pakistan coach Shahid Ali Khan admitted that being the host nation India would have an advantage.

"The first game is crucial. India have the home advantage, but the pressure of performing in front of their home crowd could work in our favour," Khan said.

He also underlined that the World Cup is the best opportunity for the two teams to revive the game in their respective countries, which once were the pioneers of the game."We need to revive hockey in both India and Pakistan and the World Cup is our best chance to turn the corner," Khan said. (ANI)

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