Pakistan eye a spot in the Junior World Cup Hockey quarter-finals as captain Abdul Hannan Shahid has urged his charges to be at their best during the crucial match against Belgium on Saturday (tomorrow).
Following what turned out to be an exceptional performance from the Green-shirts against New Zealand on Thursday, Hannan Shahid told The News on the telephone from Malaysia that the entire team is charged up following the 4-0 win against New Zealand. “Now we are eagerly looking forward to a make-or-break match against Belgium to be played on Saturday. Victory there will put us well on course for the quarter-finals.”
The junior team captain rated Belgium as one of the best teams in the competition. “Belgium is one of the best teams in the competition. Belgium also defeated New Zealand 4-0 in their opening match. But we feel we have a task to fulfill and that is to take the team to the quarter-finals. For that, we have to beat Belgium. I hope and pray that the team plays with the same spirit which it showed against New Zealand. All that is required is to see every player rising up to the challenge and making the best use of his talent and abilities in that particular match.”
Talking about Pakistan’s performance against New Zealand, Hannan said that everything went according to the plan. “The team has shown remarkable ability against the Kiwi team and achieved the win that was required. It was one of the best performances by the junior string at international level in the recent past.
The forward line played exceptionally well and so did the half-line. Some cracks were visible in the defence near the end of the match. With the help and guidance of the head coach, we will try to rectify these flaws ahead of the crucial match against Belgium.”
Hannan was hopeful to put up a real fight as the country needs a world-level title to stage a renaissance of the game. “There is no doubt that the country’s hockey requires a world-level title to regenerate interest in the game in youth,” he said.
On playing a 3-3 draw against the Dutch team on Wednesday, Hannan said players put up an exceptional show against a team ranked much higher.