KARACHI: The Pakistan hockey team kicked off its 2016 Rio Olympic qualification campaign in style with a thrilling 2-1 win over Poland at the FIH Hockey World League Semi-finals in Antwerp, Belgium on Saturday.
While Argentina, Germany, India and Netherlands have already qualified for the Olympics, Pakistan are required to finish in the top three in the tournament, comprising of a total of 10 teams, to ensure their Olympic berth.
The win over Poland is definitely a confidence booster for the Greenshirts, who had to take the lead twice to ensure a win over their 17th-ranked opponents.
Pakistan first took an early lead through Muhammad Irfan in the fourth minute and enjoyed a one-goal advantage for three quarters of the match before Poland’s Pawel Bratkowski equalised in the 51st minute.
The Greenshirts replied just three minutes later through Muhammad Waqas, who was in the right place to slot in a deflected Muhammad Umer Bhutta strike off Poland’s keeper.
Read: Hobart International Challenge: Pakistan hockey team registers first win
Head coach Shahnaz Sheikh, who took a mixed team of juniors and seniors with him to Belgium, believes that although the victory was highly significant, the real test is yet to come as Pakistan go head-to-head against world number one Australia next.
“Our practice match against Ireland helped the team cope with the initial pressure,” he told The Express Tribune. “The team played really well and I am extremely pleased with their performance but the real test is yet to come. The boys are in good form but they will have to be extremely wary against Australia, the strongest side in the world, as they will not give in easily.
He added: “We have three days to prepare for the match and we will start by observing Australia’s gameplay against France to help us in developing our strategies.”
Published in The Express Tribune, June 22nd, 2015.
Like Sports on Facebook, follow @ETribuneSports on Twitter to stay informed and join in the conversation.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ