Pakistan will take on the Netherlands in the semi-finals of the Champions Trophy tomorrow – the Greenshirts’ first appearance in an FIH last-four after eight years – after a Shakeel Abbasi brace helped them upset Olympic champions Germany in their quarter-final yesterday.
Pakistan’s shock win also confirmed its presence in the next edition of the event and a win tomorrow will mean a place in the final of a hockey tournament for the first time since the 2011 Azlan Shah Cup where it lost to Australia. Pakistan’s last silverware on the Astroturf was the 2010 Asian Games gold.
Meanwhile, in Melbourne, Germany opened the scoring through skipper Moritz Fuerste. But Pakistan played well throughout the first half and were unlucky not to draw level after many scoring chances. Abbasi truck his first goal in the 39th minute to draw his team level before adding a second 11 minutes later. After missing several scoring opportunities in both halves, Abbasi was relieved to have finally converted in such a key match.
“I missed many chances in the previous matches but thankfully I was able to deliver in this crucial match,” he told The Express Tribune after Pakistan’s win. “It’s been a long time since I Played a big part in Pakistan’s win and am very satisfied with the show. Hopefully, I’ll be able to deliver in the semi-final tomorrow as well and will try and avail every opportunity to ensure the team reaches the final.”
Pakistan captain Mohammad Imran was ecstatic after the team’s win, terming it a moment he had been waiting for a long time.
“Reaching the semi-finals is a huge achievement for the team and every single player deserves credit for the way we played,” said Imran. “Abbasi deserves special mention as he put in the most effort. Taking on the Netherlands will be tough but we’ll try and overcome the weaknesses on show in the match against Germany and try and not repeat those tomorrow.”
The Netherlands progressed to the final four after easily disposing of New Zealand 2-0.
Holders Australia face India in semis
India, chasing their first Trophy medal for 30 years, edged out Belgium 1-0, and will face Australia before a capacity home crowd after the reigning champions got the better of England 2-0.
Unlike their other wins at the tournament, India’s win over Belgium was hard fought, with Indian coach Michael Nobbs praising his team’s defence.
“It’s an amazing feeling, they have worked really hard, I didn’t think we played that well today but our defence was amazing,” said Nobbs. “It’s something I haven’t seen from an Indian defence in years, but I thought they played their hearts out.” (With additional input from AFP)
“I missed many chances in the previous matches but thankfully I was able to deliver this time. It’s been a long time since I played a big part in Pakistan’s win and am very satisfied with the show.”
“Reaching the semi-finals is a huge achievement and every single player deserves credit for the way we played. Taking on the Netherlands will be tough but we’ll try and overcome our weaknesses.”
“It’s an amazing feeling. I didn’t think we played that well but our defence was amazing. It’s something I haven’t seen from an Indian defence in years, but I thought they played their hearts out.”
Published in The Express Tribune, December 7th, 2012.
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