LAHORE: Pakistan take on Malaysia in the Asian Champions Trophy as the event kicks off in Ordos, China, today.
After an indifferent tour of Europe – that led to the axing and omission of various seniors – this is Pakistan’s first tournament as they look to find the right combination for the Champions Trophy and next year’s Olympics.
The squad is missing several senior players – including world record holder Sohail Abbas, former captain Rehan Butt and goal-keeper Salman Akbar – as the selection committee opted to draft in youth for the event.
However, team management Khwaja Junaid believes that the team has to play nearly 40 matches ahead of the Olympics.
“We will be going in with our best combination as there is no room for complacency,” Olympian Junaid told The Express Tribune from China. “We have to go in strong to play good hockey with a positive approach. We are missing Abbas but we have his replacement and we need to give him full confidence for him to perform.
“In the past, our young players were given chances but under the shadow of senior players so the time has come to test their ability without them. Naturally, with the presence of senior player in the side, the youngsters found it easy but now they are in there by themselves and I am sure they won’t let us down.”
Junaid is expecting Pakistan’s campaign to be full of goals, hoping for convincing high-scoring wins in order to gain confidence.
“Every team in the competition is taking part to win the event. But being Asian Games winners, we have a different approach and it won’t be easy for the opponent to take the game away from us. We have a psychological advantage and we will convert that to our advantage.”
Published in The Express Tribune, September 3rd, 2011.
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