Former Olympian and ex-national coach Khawaja Junaid while criticising Pakistan’s embarrassing 1-2 loss to Great Britain in the crucial quarter-final at the Hockey World League (HWL) blamed the poor display by players as well as failed strategy from the team coaches for the defeat.
“We could not make any solid move against Great Britain, our attacking combination remained unimpressive as the forwards mostly stayed in defensive mode,” said Junaid.
Criticizing the tour management for team’s poor show, Junaid said he could not understand the strategy devised by Shahnaz Sheikh that Pakistan employed in the England game.
“Pakistan should have been switching off the game from the right to left flank to tire the English players who are not used to playing under the scorching heat,” Junaid noted.
“In such an important match, Great Britain took an early 2-0 lead and that made all the difference. They also succeeded in forcing Pakistan to play according to their game plan.
“Now Pakistan have to finish the tournament at the fifth place to have some chance of making the Rio Olympics. It will create problems for Pakistan and it is a very tricky position,” Junaid said.
If Mohammad Imran-led team fail to make Rio, it would be the first time ever that Pakistan will suffer from such ignominy.
It would be yet another crash for three-time former Olympic champions Pakistan who haven’t landed any major title since 1994 when they had clinched the World Cup in Sydney and the Champions Trophy in Lahore.
It was only last year that Pakistan, once a force to reckon with in world hockey, failed to qualify for the World Cup due to poor ranking.
Another ex-Olympian Mansoor Ahmed said that poor techniques by national players led to the loss.
“Today’s hockey is all about techniques and calculation, but I’m not seeing any such thing in our team,” he said and added that goalkeeper Imran Butt could block both the goals scored by Britain if he had applied the right technique.
He pointed out that Pakistan played its real game only in the fourth quarter when it was too late. “I don’t know why our teams always take late start, we are used to play slow games in the beginning, which cost us heavily,” he said.
Mansoor said that national team’s goalkeeper Imran Butt was coached by a club level goalkeeper Abu Zahr who has no experience of international hockey.
“Our goalkeeper holds no [proper] technique to stop goals… today’s both the goals could have been easily stopped,” he said. “Britain players kept over 60 per cent possession of the ball. Momentum of their game was very high particularly in the first quarter during which they managed to score two early goals,” he said.
Mansoor backed talented strikers Arslan Qadir and Haseem Khan to be part of the playing eleven.
“I don’t know why both these players, despite their brilliant performance in the Champions Trophy, could not make into the qualification round,” he questioned and emphasised that there is a need of complete overhauling to bring the lost glory back.
“Last year, bad policies deprived the national team of participating in the World Cup.and now, we are making calculations whether we would qualify for the Olympic Games.”
He said that the federation should pay special focus on improving players’ fitness and pulling them out of psychological pressure.
“Due to a number of defeats in last three to four years, our players are under tremendous psychological pressure,” he said. To a query, the former Olympian reckoned the players were not provided due chance of training.
“What happened at the Naseer Bunda Stadium was for everyone to see. First, the PHF wrapped up the camp due to financial issues and bad condition of Astro Turf, which according to the PHF injured eight players. However, after wasting several weeks, they restarted the camp at the same place,” he said.
“Both the PHF and government are responsible for the sorry state of hockey,” he concluded.