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Entering the next phase

Pakistan’s hockey management has targeted the Asian Games to be held in August and September as the main assignment

Entering the next phase

Pakistan hockey team is back home with some pride. It remained undefeated in Commonwealth Games at Gold Coast in Australia. But the next assignment will be the toughest as it will appear in the Champions Trophy in Holland in June and July. The strongest hockey teams will be there.

The team management is clear in its planning and strategies. It knows the team has weaknesses. The team management is taking this event as preparation for Asian Games and World Cup 2018. It wants the players to learn modern-day hockey tactics.

Pakistan hockey team management has targeted the Asian Games, which are to be held in August and September. The Champions Trophy will be the best for the team to sharpen its skills as it will face the best sides of the world hockey.

From world champion to Olympic champion and European champion, all teams will be in Holland. Pakistan will have to play at least five matches against the best of teams. The teams are Olympic champions Argentina, world champions Australia, Holland, Belgium and India.

Interestingly, the event will start with a match between arch-rivals Pakistan and India on June 23.

Pakistan team manager Hasan Sardar told ‘The News on Sunday’ that the team would reach Holland around 10 days before the event. The players will start training there and also play matches against local teams.

He said that before leaving the country, the Green-shirts would train for a short period in Abbottabad from April 30.

The team management would focus on the physical fitness of the players there, he said and added that the high altitude of Abbottabad would help improve the fitness of the players.

Sardar said: “Irrespective of winning or losing, we want our players to play rigorous and hard hockey against the best teams of the world. There they will learn a lot and their skills will be sharpened. That will help them in Asian Games and later in World Cup near the end of the year.

“We did not make any tall claims when we were going for Commonwealth Games. We were focused on the preparation of our players. The same is with Champions Trophy. It is a far more difficult event than the Commonwealth Games. Thus, we can’t say anything. We only have in mind the strength of the rival teams and their playing styles. We will train and coach our players according to that.

“Australia, Holland, Argentina and Belgium, they all play fast, hard and modern hockey. We have to raise the level of our players’ fitness to meet them. As far as skill and talent of hockey is concerned, our players have everything, but they need polishing as they are still missing goal-scoring chances. They get PCs, but fail to convert them. However, our PC specialist Mubashar did not disappoint us in Commonwealth Games and proved his worth. He struck goals, saving us from defeats against strong teams.

“We have noticed weaknesses and mistakes of our players during the Commonwealth Games. We will work on them and try to get maximum benefits of the matches in Champions Trophy because the experience of these matches to our players would be great and our performance in Asian Games depends on how much we learn in Champions Trophy.

“The credit of the improved performance of the team goes to the team management, especially the head coach Roelant Oltmans.”

Syed Intikhab Ali

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