A highly interesting situation prevails in men’s Olympic hockey event as the top four teams of Group ‘A’ — Australia, Great Britain, Pakistan and Spain — have chances to make the semi-finals as they all play their last group matches at Riverbank Arena here on Tuesday.
While Australia and Great Britain look for a win or (at least) draw to cement their places in the last-four stage, both Pakistan and Spain will enter the ground under a must-win situation.
Pakistan revived their semi-finals hopes after edging out South Africa 5-4 in their thrilling group match on Sunday, which could be regarded as the best match of the tournament so far.
With seven points in their bag, Pakistan will be facing world champions Australia, who experienced a setback in the quest for the semi-finals after playing a 3-3 draw against Great Britain on Sunday.
Australia stay at the top of the group with eight points and a very healthy +11 goal average. Pakistan are at the third place with an even goal average (nine goals scored, nine conceded).
In another crunch match of the group, second-placed Britain with eight points under their belt (goal average +6), will take on Spain, fourth with seven points (goal average -2).
Contrarily, the situation in Group ‘B’ is relatively much clearer as to the semi-final contestants. The Netherlands, after beating Germany 3-1 on Sunday, hold a rich twelve points and they have already confirmed their place in the semis.
On Tuesday, the Dutch will be playing their last group match against six-point South Korea, who have slight chances to enter the last four.
However, Korea do not only require a win but also want to see defending champions Germany (nine points) losing to New Zealand, as then both Korea and Germany will have nine points each, and the decision on the second semi-final spot will be decided on which side have better goal average which presently is equal (+3).
Pakistan’s head coach-cum-manager Akhtar Rasool reckoned pressure will be on the Aussies.
“I think Australia will be under more pressure against us and we will try to increase it further with our game plan, in order to overwhelm them in the crucial match,” Akhtar told Dawn.
“We have to play very carefully against Australia, which is one of the best sides of the world but if our forwards click as they did against South Africa, positive result [in Pakistan’s favour] are possible,” he added.
Meanwhile, Australian coach Ric Charlesworth, a renowned hockey player of his era, said he would not underestimate Pakistan in Tuesday’s clash which he regarded equally important for both teams.
“Obviously, Pakistan will go all out to beat us and we must be careful as the match is also important for us after we played a draw against Britain,” Charles, a veteran of 227 international matches, stated.
Spain, in the meantime, revived their semi-finals chances after winning Sunday’s group match against Argentina 3-1.
Today’s fixtures (All times PST) South Korea v Netherlands (1230) Australia v Pakistan (1445) Argentina v South Africa (1745) India v Belgium (2000) Spain v Britain (2300) Germany v New Zealand (0115, Wednesday) Points table (Tabulated under: matches, win, draw, loss, goal for, goal against, points) Group ‘A’ Australia 4 2 2 0 16 5 8 Britain 4 2 2 0 13 7 8 Pakistan 4 2 1 1 9 9 7 Spain 4 2 1 1 7 9 7 Argentina 4 0 1 3 4 11 1 South Africa 4 0 1 3 8 16 1 Group ‘B’ Netherlands 4 4 0 0 14 5 12 Germany 4 3 0 1 9 6 9 South Korea 4 2 0 2 7 4 6 Belgium 4 1 1 2 5 7 4 New Zealand 4 1 1 2 5 9 4 India 4 0 0 4 6 15 0