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White wash of Asian teams in Olympic Hockey likely

Beijing, Aug 16 (UNI) Midway through the competition, it is almost certain that Asia will witness white wash of its three teams in the Olympic men's hockey, with China and Pakistan failing to make it to the semi-final stage and South Korea facing a near elimination from the medal round.

Once a powerhouse in the game, Pakistan is all set to take on its weakest opponent, South Africa. At this point, the green shirts can at best expect to sign off on a high by winning the last two games.

But the trouble is that the second one is against the Netherlands which is definitely amongst the top three sides in the world at the moment.

With two losses from three games, the Pakistan camp is trying to put up a brave face but it, indeed, is difficult to mask the depression.

Still, manager Khawaja Zakauddin and coach Naveed Alam, in public, keep on expressing that the resurrection was still there.

To an objective viewer, it though looks to be so remote to be well nigh non-existent. Even for the permutations to get into play for Pakistan, it first has to win both its fixtures, and heavily too against South Africa in order to narrow the gap enough between goals for and against from the two losses.

Then they will have to pray that Holland loses against Australia tomorrow and then obliges Pakistan with an upset on Tuesday and Canada beat or holds Britain to a draw.

It really is quite far-fetched. A miracle is not likely to happen, not this time round. This would not have come down to this sorry pass had Pakistan not started off the event so badly, by going down to Britain in the first game.

In Pool B, Australia and Holland having earned nine points from three run-away victories look like heading towards semi-finals unless Britain, who have six points from three matches, create a huge upset.

And in Pool B, Spain is heading the chart with three wins from as many matches followed by New Zealand (6), Germany (5) and Korea (4).

Belgium is the fifth team in that group with one point, while China is yet to win a match.

The competition has not aroused great feelings among the fans from the Indian sub-continent because of the absence of India, who failed to qualify for the Olympics hockey for first time in 80 years. And to add to their woes the Asian Teams have not performed well.

Pakistan in a way made their exit after the first match as they lost the plot and three points going down to Britain 2-4.

The second match saw them winning against lowly Canada but they were again brought down to earth by Australia in the third match.

South Korea has only one win to show so far which was against China (5-2) and after that they lost to New Zealand (1-3) but played a creditable 3-3 draw against the World Champion. They are still to play Spain and weak Belgium.

Much was expected from host China. They shunted out India and Pakistan in Doha Asiad and gave impressive display in several friendlies they played in their run up to the Olympics.

But now they are yet to win a match, having already tasted defeats at the hands of Korea (2-5), Germany (1-4) and Spain (1-2).

Pakistan coach Zakauddin, himself a former Olympian rues the fact that Asian hockey is losing its aura. Because the Euorpeans have raised the standards of their game too high and, ''We have not been able to catch up with them.'' But that is another point. In this competition it remains to be seen if Australia will be able to maintain its winning spree when it faces tough opponents like Holland and Britain.

Same is the case with Spain. They have beaten teams like China (2-1), Belgium (4-2) and New Zealand (1-0) and are still to play Germany and South Korea.

The Koreans have found themselves in quandary. Their style of hit and run now suits the Europeans and Australians because they also possess physical strength and stamina needed for such type of play.

Asian hockey has been in doldrums for some time but here it faces a prospect of being white washed. And if it takes place, it will be ironical because it will happen in a country which is now being dubbed as an Asian Giant which is taking on the World.


Story first published: Saturday, August 16, 2008, 17:03 [IST]
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