ISLAMABAD - Former Olympian Shahnaz Sheikh on Monday said that Pakistan players would have to play out of their skins against their opponents in the semi-final of Hockey Asia Cup.
Pakistan got back-to-back convincing victories in their first Group A matches of 9th Asian Cup they have played so far defeating Japan 7-0 in the first game before eliminating hosts Malaysia 4-1 in their second fixture on Sunday.
Pakistan, who have qualified for semi-final, are also expected to whip minnows Chinese Taipei when they take on them on today (Tuesday). The semi-final will be the first real test for our players ahead of final as they will be facing either arch-rivals India or quicksilver South Koreans. “The tournament is very important for Pakistan to qualify for the World Cup and everyone in our team will have to play out of skin,” said.
Shahnaz lauded national team’s performance in first two matches but suggested forward line players to attack their opponents in the semi-final in pairs instead of focusing on individual attacks. “The best form of attack in hockey is a trio-attack. But I will suggest our players that if they can’t do that they should at least adopt pair attacks against their rivals in the semi-final,” he added.
He said winning Asia Cup was vital for Pakistan as they would not only qualify for the 2014 World Cup at Hague, Netherlands and improve their rankings but would also become Asian Champions after 20 years. He said semi-final would be hell of a challenge for Pakistan.
“For both Pakistan and India, the Asia Cup is a do-or-die tournament as one of them faces the prospect of missing out on a World Cup berth for the first time since its launch in 1971,” he said.
“If Pakistan meets India in the semi-final, the latter will also be trying their best as they too desperately need to win the event to reserve a berth in the World Cup. And in case if it is a South Korea-Pakistan clash, then it will be even more challenging as after having already qualified for the World Cup, the South Koreans will be desperate to assert their supremacy in the eight-nation event by defending their title,” Shahnaz added.
About Pakistan team’s defence, he said it was comprised of most aged trio of Wasim, Imran and Salman Akbar adding that the management should devise a plan for Wasim and Imran’s substitution during the game so that they could sustain the pressure. Shahnaz also asked the team management to teach the players art to get penalty corners purposely.