Tuesday August 16, 2022

Green-shirts eye victory against Japan to qualify for World Cup

May 26, 2022

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan hockey faces a make or break point Thursday against Japan in their last Asia Cup pool match in Jakarta as a victory or a draw will keep Pakistan's hopes alive to gain a place in the World Cup to be held next year in India.

A big defeat will severely dent efforts to stage a renaissance of the game in the country that has an unblemished history of winning laurels on the hockey field.

Even a loss by a thin margin could still keep Pakistan's chances alive provided India scored less than 13 goals in their last pool match against minnows Indonesia. India have already conceded six goals (five against Japan and one against Pakistan) and scored three. Pakistan have scored 14 goals and conceded just one.

India were never seen playing their best game against Japan while the Asian champions Japan showed their class by securing a place in the semi-finals.

Head coach Siegfried Aikman stayed busy throughout Wednesday working on the strategy to counter the team which he trained for almost eight years.

Talking to 'The News', Aikman said that he was well aware of Japan’s weaknesses and would try to exploit them. “We are looking forward to a win and hopefully we would get that if our players displayed the game I wanted them to play. There are some weak areas of the Japan team which we will exploit. Japan is good at counterattacks and we have to block these with the strategy I have finalised,” he said.

Siegfried revealed that injury to Abu Bakhar is a worrying point but they would try to nullify it with a good replacement. “He is down with a knee problem, but we will field his replacement,” he added.

Khawaja Junaid, manager Pakistan team, praised Aikman's acumen. “No one knows Japan hockey better than Siegfried who remained Japan’s head coach for almost eight years. He remained busy with players throughout Wednesday, telling them what to do and what not to do against a team that have many pluses. Japan is a team that developed leaps and bounds over the years under Siegfried. So to say that Pakistan head coach knows their planning well would not be an exaggeration,” he said.

Pakistan head coach Siegfried was confident of winning a place in the World Cup.

“You will get good news as we will go all out against Japan and will try to beat them. We are capable of that as we are carrying a talented outfit having all the ability to beat the best. Surely we missed a good chance of beating India. Had we achieved that, we would have been in the semis by now. We will try to make amends against Japan,” he said.