On paper it looks a likely contender but on recent form, the Pakistan hockey team may return empty-handed.
But as the team departs for England today, a ten-day training programme in Birmingham ahead of the 12-team competition at the London Games, captain Sohail Abbas promised an all-out effort from his team. Following the training sessions, the team will shift to the Olympics Village on July 22 and is scheduled to play warm-up matches against Holland, Germany and Belgium before the event proper starts on July 30.
Placed in pool A, Pakistan will take on world champions Australia, Great Britain, Spain, Argentina and South Africa while pool B comprises defending champions Germany, Holland, Korea, New Zealand, India and Belgium.
Captain upbeat about chances
Pakistan ended their last international assignment before the Olympics, the Azlan Shah Cup, bottom of the table but penalty-corner specialist Abbas remained optimistic about the team’s chances in London.
“This is going to be an open competition,” Abbas told The Express Tribune on the eve of the team’s departure from Lahore. “To me there are no clear favourites. Nobody can predict the winners and the competition will be very tough. As far as Pakistan’s concerned, the team has the potential to beat the world’s best.
“We are going well prepared and our morale is very high. I can promise a sincere and all-out effort from the team but we’ll need to work hard and teamwork will be key to how we fare in the Olympics.”
Abbas also gave a thumbs-up to the return of the seniors including Shakeel Abbasi, Rehan Butt, Waseem Ahmed and Mohammad Imran.
“The team is a blend of youth and experience. The return of the seniors will benefit the team which is why it’s good for us.”
Abbas not looking beyond opening match
Pakistan open their Olympics hockey campaign on July 30 against Spain and Abbas said that the team will be taking the event on a match-by-match basis.
“I am not looking at things beyond the first encounter which is against Spain. It’s going to be very important in our campaign because a good start is always needed in big events. We will play each match as a final as only this approach will help us yield the desired results.”
Abbas also defended Pakistan’s poor show in the Azlan Shah Cup, adding that if the finishing touch had been there, the team would have ended higher up in the table.
“We were not as bad as the results suggest. We created many chances in the tournament but lacked finishing. But we can easily get the results in our favour by overcoming this weakness.”
Coach has high hopes too
Meanwhile, the team’s manager and chief coach Akhtar Rasool was hopeful of a good performance.
“The players are highly motivated,” he said. “They are working hard in training and eager to give their best at the Olympics. We are optimistic of a good show and results in the competition.”
“I am not looking at things beyond the first encounter. It’s going to be very important in our campaign because a good start is always needed in big events. We will play each match as a final as only this approach will help us yield the desired results.”
“The players are highly motivated for the Games. They are working hard in training and are eager to give their best for Pakistan at the Olympics. We are optimistic of a good show and results from the boys in the competition.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 12th, 2012.
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