KARACHI, June 20: Pakistan hockey team manager-cum-chief coach Akhtar Rasool has said that under the new format, qualifying for next year’s World Cup is a big challenge but best efforts are being made to prepare the team for the same.
Pakistan team will be flying to Kuala Lumpur on June 23 to take part in the 8-nation World Hockey League which opens in Johor Bahru from June 29.
Top three teams from the 8-team contest will qualify for next year’s World Cup. “Our first target would be to qualify for the semi-finals and then plan things accordingly,” the former Pakistan captain said.
The 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games champion Pakistan have been drawn in Group “B” with England, South Africa and hosts Malaysia.
“Every match will be crucial for us and we have told the boys that they should play every match like a final,” said Akhtar.
He added that all the three teams in their pool are tough and Pakistan will have put in their best to go past them. “I am expecting good show from the forward line and a considerable improvement in the penalty corner conversion,” said the chief coach.
“Pakistan have some fine forwards in Shakeel Abbasi, Shafqat Rasool, Waqas Sharif, Rizwan and Haseem Khan while Mohammad Imran, Mohammad Ateeq are good penalty corner strikers. But they must play at their full potential to take the team to the podium,” said Akhtar.
He said Pakistan could not do well in Azlan Shah Cup as senior players had been rested. But all of them are back in the side now.
An 18-member squad will be finalised by Friday on basis of form and fitness while no trials will be conducted by the team management.
“I hope the players will learn from history to help Pakistan qualify for the World Cup,” he said.
He said for the revival of hockey, different departments will have to groom players while re-introduction of sports quota in educational institutions will also boost hockey activity and interest for the game among the youth.
The national team will be playing a warm-up game against Germany while Akhtar was trying to arrange another practice match ahead of the event to give the players a good workout and match practice.—APP