KARACHI: It took one win and one draw to give the Pakistan hockey team management renewed confidence ahead of this year’s London Olympics.
After a poor Azlan Shah Cup, in which the Greenshirts finished bottom, Pakistan embarked on the Europe tour. There, a thrashing by lower-ranked Belgium was followed by a draw in the two-match series with Germany and another 3-3 draw against Holland — ranked among the top three in the world. Pakistan coach Khwaja Junaid insisted that the team has the potential and stands a good chance of doing well.
“You need to see the ground realities,” Junaid told The Express Tribune. “We played Belgium without any rest. We went there with a depleted side due to visa issues of three of our senior players and another player got injured during the game.”
‘Germany, Holland results breakthrough’
However, the Olympian said resilience against Germany and the Netherlands came as a breakthrough after a dismal show in the Azlan Shah Cup.
“The players played excellent hockey. We played three matches with little gaps but our players proved their fitness and mental toughness by obtaining good results.
“We also shouldn’t forget that they were playing at home and with full strength while we were short of options. We are not going as dark horses in the Olympics now.”
Europe tour polished youngsters: Rasool
Meanwhile, Pakistan manager Akhtar Rasool said the tour will have a positive impact on the team.
“The players showed a lot of improvement,” the manager told reporters. “It has boosted our confidence which was vital before the Olympics. The training tour was also helpful for the youngsters.”
Pakistan will undergo a training camp before leaving for a tour of Birmingham on July 11. The final team is expected to be named in the first week of July.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 19th, 2012.
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