LAHORE, July 12: Pakistan hockey team left for London Olympics here on Thursday with hopes of reaching the podium despite its average record at major tournaments in recent times. The Greenshirts were lucky to get a direct entry into the Olympics after winning the Asian Games 2010 held in Beijing.

Talking to media before their departure, head coach Akhtar Rasool and captain Sohail Abbas appeared upbeat about the team’s chances in the Games.

“We have prepared well for the mega event as we have learnt from our mistakes and now the team, which is a blend of seniors and youth, is in a better position to face the pressure situations,” said head coach Akhtar who took charge just three months back after the PHF had abruptly removed Dutch coach Michel van den Heuvel a month before the team’s participation in the Azlan Shah Cup.

Akhtar remained optimistic about the team’s show in the Games, claiming that senior players like Sohail Abbas, Rehan Butt, Waseem Ahmed, Shakeel Abbasi and Mohammad Imran were competent enough to give any side a run for the money while some promising youngsters possessed the talent to surprise the world.

“Some of the juniors are really talented and they are improving with every passing day which is good a sign. I hope they will gel in well with the seniors to pose a challenge for the opposition,” the head coach added.

Akhtar said the team is going to London two weeks before the start of the Games to get properly acclimatized, adding that he will be taking every team and each match very seriously.

Captain and penalty-corner specialist Sohail Abbas said the mega event will be a tough challenge for his boys and appealed to the nation to support the team.

He said the players, especially the seniors, were taking the Olympics as a great challenge since they wanted to bow out on a high note from international hockey. He further said that his first target will be to reach the semi-final stage.

Moreover, the players will attend a training camp at a local club in Birmingham until July 22. The team will then reach London to play two warm-up matches — one each against Holland and Belgium.

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