Ipoh (Malaysia): Virtually assured of a World Cup berth, India produced an inspiring performance beating hosts Malaysia 2-0 to enter the final of the 9th Asia Cup hockey tournament here today.
The Koreans have already qualified for the World Cup while India and Malaysia have all but qualified for the World Cup as the first and second reserves.
There was some fantastic news awaiting the Indian team prior to the start of their semi-final clash against the Malaysians after defending champions South Korea beat Pakistan 2-1 in a hard-fought first semi-final at the Sultan Azlan Shah stadium.
Three-time champions Pakistan's defeat meant that India and Malaysia now have virtually qualified for next year's World Cup, the official confirmation of which will come only after the conclusion of the Oceania Cup in November.
It will also be the first time Pakistan will not feature in the World Cup since it started in Barcelona back in 1971.
Buoyed by this development, the Indians started the semi-final against Malaysia on a confident note and stunned the packed home crowd at the Azlan Shah Stadium with an early goal.
Raghunath took his goal-tally to seven when the big-bodied dragflicker converted India's first penalty corner in the eighth minute.
However, it was the home team which enjoyed the early share of exchanges and had couple of scoring chances at the start.
While on the first occasion Faizal Saari missed from a close range, an unmarked Nabil Fiqri Mohd Noor shot wide a minute later with only Indian custodian P R Sreejesh to beat.
The Malaysian's created lot of scoring opportunities in the entire 70 minutes but the Indian defence led goalkeeper Sreejesh stood like rock to thwart the chances.