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Pakistan hold Belgium to enter Junior World Cup quarters

December 10, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan stormed into the Junior World Cup Hockey quarter-finals after 14 years by playing a 1-1 draw against Belgium in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) on Saturday.

The green shirts required a draw to make it to the last eight-stage while Belgium was playing for a win to progress. It turned out to be a draw and a place for Pakistan in the quarter-finals at the expense of Belgium from Pool D. Earlier, Holland defeated New Zealand 3-1 to top the Pool with Pakistan finishing as runners-up.

Representational image of hockey stick and ball. — APP/File
Representational image of hockey stick and ball. — APP/File

In what turned out to be a nerve-wracking final Pool D match, Belgium made an early impression by controlling the game in the initial stages. In the process, they scored the opener in the third minute of the match through a penalty corner.

Though Pakistan protested against the goal that the defenders claimed a foul was committed before the ball crossed the line, the goal stayed.

Belgium made some more inroads into Pakistan’s defense during the first two quarters. Jack Vloeberghs was the scorer for Belgium from an indirect shot that slowly crossed the goal line.

Pakistan, however, regrouped and started playing with more aggression in the second half.

Ball possession was accurate compared to what the green shirts had shown in the first half. Pakistan spoiled some good opportunities to score an equalizer which did not come until the 42nd minute when Arbaz Ahmad dodged the Belgian goalkeeper on his left to make it 1-1. The push was so powerful that it hit the net before the goalkeeper reacted.

Pakistan made some more inroads with Arshad Liaquat missing a sitter when only one defender was at his mercy.

Belgium desperately tried to score a winner and a place in the quarter-finals. The European champions even pulled out their goalkeeper to add another striker. Belgium earned a late penalty corner which was hit wide.

“After a long time, we have moved into the quarter-finals of the Junior World Cup. We produced an out effort to keep the European champions at bay in the second half and even played better hockey which earned us a point and a place in the last eight stage,” Zakaria Hayat who looks after the half line, said.

Pakistan has set a date against Spain in the quarter-finals on Tuesday at 3 pm (PST) while India will take on The Netherlands also on Tuesday.

The other two quarter-finals will see Australia playing France with defending champions Argentina taking on Germany.