Pakistan edged out South Korea 3-2 to finish seventh in the hockey event of the London Olympics – an improvement on Beijing 2008 by one place – and coach Khawaja Junaid saw consolation in India’s misery who will be fighting for the 11th spot.
The win also brought Pakistan’s participation in the Olympics to an end after its shooting, swimming and athletics campaign ended at the first hurdle.
Meanwhile, in the hockey event, Pakistan beat Argentina and South Africa besides drawing against Spain. However, heavy losses against GB and Australia cost the team dearly and it failed to progress to the knockouts.
Coach happy with Asian domination
Meanwhile, while Pakistan coach Khwaja Junaid lamented the team’s failure to qualify for the semi-finals, he remained satisfied after it maintained its continental domination.
“At least we return as the best-ranked Asians,” Junaid told The Express Tribune from London. “Korea finished eighth, while India will be avoiding a bottom-place finish. This has proved our Asian supremacy which we gained with a gold medal at the Asian Games two year ago.”
Junaid was especially pleased after Pakistan finished ahead of traditional rivals India.
“There’s always a sort of competition against India and finishing ahead of them is a respite. We were going well before the match against GB. Australians were favourites but we had a chance of winning against Britain. But there are no excuses for the huge loss against Australia as the players totally failed against them.”
He added that the team deserved to play the fifth-sixth position match. However, he said he was satisfied with the team’s performance. “We did well and our future is bright in the game.” The Greenshirts are scheduled to return home on August 14.
Stage comeback against Korea
Meanwhile, in the classification match, Pakistan conceded two goals as South Koreans dominated the proceedings early in the first half.
However, the Greenshirts kept their cool and scored three successive goals to win the match. Mohammad Waqas reduced the lead before Abdul Haseem Khan equalised. Former captain Mohammad Imran then scored the decisive goal through a brilliant flick on a penalty-corner to seal the 3-2 win.
More Olympians join chorus of revamp
Back home, Olympians have lamented Pakistan’s seventh finish, calling for a complete overhaul in the team.
“We cannot progress under this set up,” said Shahnaz Sheikh. “This federation got enough time and now they should give other people a chance.”
Olympian Manzoor junior said major changes were required to improve Pakistan’s world rankings.
“Finishing seventh does not make much difference. We have not shown any improvement in four years. There should be a complete overhaul.”
New Zealand finish ninth
In another play-off, New Zealand beat Argentina 3-1 to finish ninth. South Africa and India will play the 11th-place play-off, while Spain and Belgium will compete for fifth place tomorrow.
Abbas not to retire, says agent
Pakistan hockey captain Sohail Abbas will not be retiring anytime soon, confirmed his agent following the team’s seventh-place finish in the London Olympics.
Abbas, who was appointed captain for the Azlan Shah Cup and then the Olympics, proved to a major disappointment in London and currently stands at 348 goals, a world record. While Abbas vowed to carry on, Pakistan’s Waseem Ahmed confirmed his decision to retire with immediate effect.
“We were going well before the match against Great Britain. We had a chance of beating them as well. But there are no excuses for the loss against Australia. There’s always a sort of competition against India and finishing ahead of them is a respite. We did well and our future is bright.”
“We cannot progress under the current PHF set up. This federation has gotten enough time to improve Pakistan hockey and they’ve failed to do so. It is time that they step down and other competent people be given a chance so that the country can regain its lost glory.”
“Pakistan only won two matches in their group games and these victories came against lower-ranked competitors — Argentina and South Africa. We failed to perform against major teams – Great Britain and Australia – and that showed there’s no progress.”
“This team finished eighth in Beijing and it finished seventh in London. It’s time for the team management to step down. A team, under a new set up, should be prepared for the 2014 World Cup and Asian Games. Seniors should be honoured for their achievements and then be shown the door.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 10th, 2012.