KARACHI: While Pakistan take on Japan in a match that decides which of the two sides finishes bottom, arch-rivals India take on Malaysia in a bid to reach the final of the 25th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ioph, Malaysia today.
The Greenshirts won their first match against Canada but were then subjected to four defeats on the trot — losing to New Zealand, Australia, India and Malaysia — meaning their opponents Japan are the only country below them in the seven-team table.
Not only do the two sides have the worst points tallies with three for Pakistan and zero for Japan, they also have the worst goal difference of -9 — both conceding a whopping 16 goals and scoring just seven in their five games so far.
Sultan Azlan Shah Cup: Greenshirts succumb to yet another defeat
Pakistan can finish fifth if they defeat Japan and Canada are beaten by Australia but do not have a chance to finish in the top four positions and compete in the final or third-place playoff. Defeat to Japan though will see them finish bottom and not even qualify for the fifth-place playoff.
However, despite the poor performances, former players feel it is not the players but the Pakistan Hockey Federation that is to blame.
“The federation was unable to motivate the players against India,” said Samiullah Khan, feeling that some sort of prize money should have been announced as an added incentive like the Indians did. “Regardless of how badly we play against other teams, our players have always picked up their game against India and shown passion. Unfortunately in this tournament they were unable to do so.”
Sultan Azlan Shah Cup: India thrashes Pakistan 5-1
Samiullah feels Indian hockey has a bright future ahead, considering the promising youngsters coming through. “India are improving so fast that their juniors are now performing better than our seniors,” he said.
Meanwhile, former captain Hasan Sardar also rued the dismal state of Pakistan hockey. “Now they are losing matches against India with big margins. A lot of brain storming is required to get things on track,” he said.
While India have also struggled against the likes of New Zealand and Australia, their statement 5-1 win over Pakistan means they now need to defeat Malaysia in order to book a spot in the final where world champions Australia await.
Sultan Azlan Shah Cup: We know Black Sticks’ weaknesses, claims Pakistan coach
Such has been Australia’s dominance that they will in all likelihood go into the final with six wins out of six, with today’s opponents Canada going into their final match as distinct outsiders.
India have had an edge over Malaysia in recent encounters, shattering their hopes of qualifying for the Olympic Games by winning 3-2 in last year’s World League semi-finals in Antwerp, Belgium.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 15th, 2016.
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