KARACHI: Pakistan had to win against lowly-ranked South Africa to stay in the race for the semi-finals and did well to gain three more points in their group, says former captain Islahuddin Siddiqui.
Speaking to Dawn from London after the Green-shirts’ fourth group match, in which they edged past South Africa 5-4, the Olympian said that the game was the most high-scoring hockey match in the 2012 Games so far.
“It was a fast-paced match where South Africa took the lead thrice and Pakistan restored parity all three times. And when Pakistan got ahead, South Africa also equalised. It was good that we scored our fifth goal right at the end when the opponents didn’t have time to equalise again.
“Otherwise, from the pace of the match, it could have gone either way. And it would have been a shame for Pakistan, who are ranked eighth in the world to lose to a team that is ranked 12th,” the former national coach commented.
“The good thing for Pakistan was that the forwards, midfielders and defenders scored with three in the winners’ tally scored coming through the forwards, one by a midfielder and another by a defender on a penalty-corner.
“But then we also missed where we weren’t supposed to, like when Shakeel Abbasi failed to take advantage of Waqas Sharif’s pass right in front of the goal. It is a miracle that Pakistan came out victorious after missing such a great chance.
“But then South Africa, too, had some three to four open-net misses,” he said.
“Pakistan have to control poor stopping and cover the crossing of the forward line, both towards the right and left, as the forwards just aren’t there on time to connect.
“Then out of the four penalty-corners that we got, we were only able to covert one. Meanwhile, South Africa got three and scored on two,” he added.
Lamenting Pakistan’s choice of goalkeeper, the senior Olympian said that Imran Shah helped Pakistan concede another four goals on Sunday.
“Going into the competition with one goalkeeper will remain a major blunder as Imran makes one mistake after another but cannot be replaced for there being no option. One of South Africa’s goals happened when Imran cleared the ball and their forward stopped it to send it right in again.
“When a goalkeeper clears the ball, he is to send it sideways, left or right, but Imran was technically wrong in pushing it out at 90 degrees where the forward was ready to score on rebound,” Islah pointed out.
“Now Pakistan have to win their last group match with Australia to reach the semi-finals. In case of a draw, the matter of moving into the last four will depend on the goals scored by the teams,” he said.
Saying so, he wished the team well while pointing out that Australia is known to play open and attacking hockey.
“That kind of open style allows both sides to score. If Pakistan play their Asian-style, attacking hockey and match Australia’s fast pace, they can even slow them down to control the match and turn it in their favour,” he concluded.
Pakistan play their final group match against Australia on Tuesday.