KARACHI : Pakistan hockey team, after winning all their pool B matches in the ongoing Asian Games, are eyeing a semi-final victory against pool A second-placed team Japan when they face each other on Thursday.
The silver medallists of the last editions, Pakistan, who showed an appetite for attacking hockey during the Asiad have scored 45 goals in their pool matches and conceded only one, and are hoping to carry the same approach in the semis.
A victory in the semis will mean that they will get a chance to fight for gold and most importantly first qualification for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics.
The striker and the former captain of the team Muhammad Irfan, while talking to The Express Tribune from Jakarta, said: “We have just conceded a single goal in the five pool matches and that shows we have improved. Each and every player is owning up to his responsibility and they can be seen playing as a single unit. You must have seen the defenders, mid-fielders and strikers all fulfilling their responsibility. This is why we won all pool matches and we will be going for a victory in the semi-final.”
Irfan was of the opinion that Pakistan’s flurry of goals came after they improved their penalty corner and field goals conversion rates.
“The rhythm we are in right now, we’ll be playing in the semi-final with the same momentum,” he said.
In the other semi-final, India will be facing Malaysia and the Pakistan goalkeeper Imran Butt says the team is going to stick to their offensive mindset in the semis, and if they win, in the final too. However, he insisted that their primary focus was set on winning the final.
“Semi-final is a stage where the teams put in their maximum effort as it is a do-or-die situation. Every team wants to qualify for Olympics and for that they will give their best, so we cannot take any team lightly,” Butt told The Express Tribune.
Butt revealed Pakistan’s plan of how they will down the Japan team.
“At this level, if you score first and take the lead, it puts pressure on your opponents and that helps you in scoring more goals. So we will be looking for early goals in order to take the lead,” he said.
Pakistan goalie said team’s winning formula is embedded in the idea of unity.
“Till we are all playing as a team, we will succeed, but once we start focusing on personal performances, then the team will lose, so we all are playing as a unit and will play the same till the end,” he said.