Pakistan opened their campaign at the Asia Cup with a resounding victory as they thrashed Japan 7-0 at the Azlan Shah Stadium in Ipoh, Malaysia yesterday.
The team is looking to clinch the crucial Asia Cup trophy in order to qualify for the International Hockey Federation (FIH) World Cup in Hague next year.
Pakistan missed an opportunity last month to book their place in the World Cup line-up, finishing the World Hockey League in seventh place among eight teams in the knock-out round of the competition.
However, in the opening Group A match yesterday, players Muhammad Waqas, Mohammad Tauseeq and captain Muhammad Imran trounced their opponents, scoring two goals each. Abdul Haseem Khan got a solitary strike for the greenshirts.
In another match of the day, Malaysia defeated Chinese Taipei 10-2 and India crushed Oman 8-0 in their Group B opener.
Pakistan will now take on hosts Malaysia today, while Japan will face Chinese Taipei. Defending champions South Korea and Bangladesh will open their Group B campaigns today.
Equal opportunity for Pakistan, Malaysia and India
While South Korea have already booked their place in the World Cup after Argentina failed to qualify from the Pan American Cup, the Asia Cup will pose tough competition for Pakistan, India and Malaysia.
Although the score against Japan in the opening match has set the team’s tone in the competition, former national player Islahuddin Siddiqui said that the result was not at all impressive.
Siddiqui was also the team manger and head coach in 1989 when Pakistan won their last Asia Cup, defeating India 3-1 in New Delhi.
“Pakistan is a better team than Japan in every way, they should’ve scored 10 to 12 goals in this match,” Siddiqui told The Express Tribune. “Winning against Japan or Chinese Taipei is not impressive.”
Siddique predicted that the level of competition from Pakistan, India and Malaysia would be the same and all three squads had an equal chance of winning the cup.
“I can predict that the last four teams will be Pakistan and Malaysia from Group A and India and Korea from Group B. Reaching the semi-finals shouldn’t be a problem for our team. And with the results from the opening match, I can say that even India is not playing too well. They should’ve also scored more goals against Oman.”
Siddiqui, however, said that the team had to maintain focus while adding that the senior players needed to prove themselves.
“It is high time we win the Asia Cup, it’s been 24 years now. I can still recall me being the coach and the manager for the team in 1989 and how the Indian fans attacked us after the final. Asia Cup has more importance now since it involves World Cup qualification.
“I wish Pakistan wins it this time and the senior players who have been called back can prove their worth,” said Siddiqui.
According to the FIH rankings, Korea are in sixth position, while Pakistan are ranked eighth in the world. India are placed 11th and Malaysia sit at 13th in the rankings.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 25th, 2013.