Taking on Spain, odds stacked against Team Pakistan


Once the most artistic, the most feared and the most dazzling at the Olympic or any hockey field, the mantle of Asian standard-bearer sat light on them. Now only a pale shadow of its glory days, Team Pakistan take on Spain in its first Games 2012 encounter here at the blue and pink Riversbank Arena. So dismal has been their record in the run up to the biggest global event that when the Green Shirts step on the field to take on Spain in the afternoon Monday, the predominant sentiment around their bench perhaps would be to avoid a pasting.
Among a run of results that fall in the nothing-much-to-write-home category, include the two warm-up outings against Belgium and Holland here in the last week. Seven conceded for a solitary score does not even begin to provide a hint of reassurance or console a side that has demonstrated in the last four years since Beijing such consistency in scrapping the bottom half of a 12-team draw – crashing to wooden spoon in its last three big-draw events: the 2010 World Cup, 2011 Champions Trophy and 2012 Azlan Shah Cup only a couple of months ago.
Practice games though are not always the best reflection of a team’s strength or a true measure of its weakness. Quite often the physically and mentally better equipped teams tend to quite perceptibly lift themselves up once the event proper gets rolling. One wishes that this was the case with this Pakistan team as well, but all apparent indicators portend doom. It is a travesty that Pakistan despite being the first side to qualify (through its return to gold standard in the Asian Games 2010 at Guangzhou) is probably the worst prepared of all, across both groups from each of which two nations qualify for the knock-out stage, with three of the four certain of a podium finish. Its Dutch coach was fired for breach of contract only months before the Olympic Games after nearly three years trying to shape up the team for the very same mega event, and then five who ranked amongst its best ditched it for peanuts on offer in the rogue World Hockey Series in India for what seemed to be riches to them, only to be banned and then recalled.
Above all, seven strikes against and only one for shows that the team has grave if not insurmountable flaws in all three tiers: defence, midfield and upfront in striking.
In quotes flashed by the Olympic Games Organising Committee, OCOG for short, Pakistan coach Khawaja Junaid describes his side as a blend that contains three categories of players: senior, middle aged and young. “We have a good chance”, says he. Good chance? Read: Expecting a finish in the top four. Brave words. This may be Junaid’s fond wish, and one would be only too happy to choke on one’s words if it comes to pass, but a mere glance on the form book, and it looks ludicrously close to wishful thinking.
By the way, his ambition corresponds with his opposite number, Spanish coach Dani Martin. “Our aim is to finish in the top two of Pool A, so we can reach the semifinals… We have a great deal of experience… I think we have a good equilibrium between experience and youth”, says he.
The keyword here is ‘equilibrium’. What would Khawaja Junaid not give for it!
The only thing good about it being so grim and devoid of hope, from Pakistan’s view, is that it cannot get any worse.
In such circumstances, Pakistan should go out thinking that they’ve nothing to lose and everything to gain from giving it their best shot. If the really experienced lot – skipper Sohail Abbas, Waseem Ahmed, Shakeel Abbasi and Rehan Butt – succeeded in inspiring the young ones by stretching their nerve and sinew, who knows, the written-off Pakistan may yet gather some flow and fluency to somehow sneak into the top two – instead of Spain or Great Britain.
In sport strange things, like a rank outsider upsetting the best laid plans of the top dog, have happened too often to discount that possibility.
Wild card out: Anum Bandey, the 15-year-old wild card entrant in women’s swimming 400m medley, quite expectedly crashed out after the first heat Saturday, though she managed to improve her own best by three seconds. Her time 5:34:64, while the top lady in that heat did it in 4:50:32. Need one say more?
Expect the rest of the quartet of wild cards follow suit, with similar alacrity. We’re so out of our depth.


  1. The team is another indicator of last 41/2 years 'progress'. Why such spent players have been sent?A young squad would have done better and gained experience.

  2. Pakistan are always full of contraversy, $7.00 underdogs spells dollars, watch them attack a Spain side with nuthin to lose

  3. I don't see any reason for writing such a negative-toned article against the Pakistani side. Yes they haven't been able to perform to their legacy but they are Asian champs. Yes, their performance has been poor in the Champions Trophy. But this is a new competition and Pakistan has always surprised the world in many occasions. They do have the potential to be in the top four and they just proved it by drawing with Spain. Now did you expect that??????

  4. I dint bother reading till end……………….too negative….and biased view..Typical appraoch to get ratings..

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