A do or die battle for Pakistan

Beijing, Aug 14 (UNI) A disjointed Pakistan with one win from two outings take on defending Champion Australia in a do-or-die battle with the former Asian power house desperately needing a win to stay on course in the Olympic hockey competition here today.

Pakistan surely has limitations while Australia seems as solid as a reigning Olympic champion should look. Against two lesser outfits, Canada and South Africa, it slammed in as many as 16 goals and as if to prove that the unit is after all human, conceded just one.

Regardless of the opposition, this reflects tremendous firepower.

And pitted against Pakistan's weak defence, it could make the difference.

Since it achieved its biggest unfulfilled ambition at Athens in 2004 -- an Olympic gold in hockey, other than a brief interregnum, the Aussies have been the team to beat. And only recently it swaggered its way to the Champions Trophy title.

Australia, without a speck of doubt, is the in form team here and it would be raring to seal its third win on the trot and grabbing a place in the top four from pool B is a near certainty.

Pakistan, on the other hand, has at best shown scattered flashes of brilliance; in both games these indeed were too few and far between to inspire confidence that it is primed for giant-killing.

The defence has shown ineptness and fragility even against the pedestrian attacks that it has come across so far; the midfield, despite pivot Muhammad Saqlain's much improved performance in the second half against Canada, is prone to make unforced errors. And though the forwards have displayed penetrative skills, the finishing has been way off.

For Pakistan, it is the 'D' day, for the loss against at Britain has deprived them of the luxury of a cushion of another defeat.

Since both sides play open, attacking hockey, the match should be an interesting one, but only if Pakistan could compete on equal terms.

In other pool B matches, the Netherlands take on Canada while South Africa square off against Great Britain. No prizes for guessing the outcome of the Netherlands-Canada tie -- only the former would like to have a better scoreline than the narrow 1-0 margin it rustled up against Britain. And if Britain heaps still more misery on South Africa, it too would remain in contention for the knockout stage.

Pool A presents a rather intriguing situation where four teams (Spain six points, world champions Germany four, and Korea and New Zealand both tied at three) are in the run. So all four would want to get out of this round without dropping any points.


Story first published: Thursday, August 14, 2008, 18:05 [IST]
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