London Olympics Men’s Hockey: Pakistan’s way to victory

Pakistan has done it again! Defying the pundits, Pakistan defeated Argentina by two goals to none in their second pool match of the 2012 London Olympics Men’s Hockey competition. In a nail-biting match, both teams played fast attacking hockey and made frequent inroads into each other’s defences.

Pakistan drew first blood 30 minutes into the game, when defender Muhammad Imran scored from a direct penalty corner drag flick. The second goal also came off a penalty corner strike when captain Sohail Abbas’ powerful drag flick found the left post in the 44th minute of the second half. Though Pakistani forwards displayed occasional cohesion and short passes, overall they featured at an individual level, making fast runs whenever they could, finding spaces and attempting to pierce the Argentinian defence with individual stick work.

During the game, players playing forward missed quite a few scoring chances, and it was the penalty corner strikers who saved the day for Pakistan.

Whether this strategy of individual play by the Pakistani forward line will prove to be effective against the packed defence of stronger teams like Great Britain and Australia, is yet to be seen. Perhaps the need is for the team manager, Akhtar Rasool and coach Khawaja Junaid, to revise this trend and add mid field support to the forward line, so that attackers are not left to their own devices to penetrate the defence but move in trios adding more play and tactics to the game.

This game also highlighted a variation in Pakistan’s penalty corner routine with Muhammad Imran taking the first strike instead of Sohail Abbas.

Overall, the green shirts played well and were a treat to watch. It must be said that it is the Pakistani defenders to whom much of the credit goes for keeping the Argentinian attackers at bay and often saving the team in the last moments.

Full back, Muhammad Irfan, and half back, Rasheed Mahmood, proved to be a strong barricade for the Argentinian forward line. Goalkeeper Imran Shah was particularly in form under the bar, magnificently saving two of Argentina’s penalty corner strikes, and foiling numerous field goal attempts. However there were a few very serious fumbles by the defence line, to which stronger sides will not show any mercy.

With this win, Pakistan now have four points from two games and as Great Britain’s match against South Africa earlier in the day resulted in a draw, there is a glimmer of hope for Pakistan to make it to the semi final stages. But Great Britain who have home advantage and world champions Australia will prove to be strong adversaries. Moreover, South Africa ? though lowly rated in world rankings ? should also not be taken lightly.

It is vital that our team management reviews videos of their opponents in the tournament and chalks out a workable game plan for these important encounters. More manpower is needed in the attack.

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