Salman Akbar is a veteran goal-keeper who made his debut for Pakistan’s hockey team in 2001. Termed by Olympian Shahid Ali Khan as one of the most hard-working players in the game, Akbar has won the 2005 Rabo Trophy and the 2010 Asian Games gold medal with Pakistan. He was adjudged the ‘best keeper’ in both events. Here, he reviews Pakistan’s performance against Australia and talks about their next match against South Korea on Thursday.
Crushed by the champions
Nothing good to write about this match as it was Pakistan's worst ever defeat in the Olympics. From the very first minute, Australia did exactly what was expected from them and what they are famous.
Pakistan, however, did not do what was expected from them and started the game with no planning and absolutely no energy, making mistakes after mistakes. Lacking courage, Pakistan tried to start off defensively but that did not work out too well as Australia were leading 2-0 after just six minutes.
Pakistan didn't create a single penalty corner and the Australian goal keeper did not touch the ball in the 70 minute game. It was a shock to see Rehan Butt and Shakeel Abbasi on the bench before the match started. The coaching staff did not recognize the importance of the match and put a weak starting 11 against the world champions. The 4-0 scoreline at half-time clearly showed Pakistan’s incompetency thus far in all departments of the game.
Goalkeeper Imran Shah made a few simple saves but mostly he was just like beginner standing under the bar which raised a lot of questions.
Why was he the only goalkeeper in the squad of 16? More importantly, what kind of training had been given to him by the goal keeper trainer who has been with the team for many years?
There was no connection in the team and the defensive errors were shocking. Strikers showed individual play which cost Pakistan their worst defeat. There should have been a fightback from the Greenshirts even after letting two goals in after six minutes but in the last twenty minutes of the match it looked like everyone was just waiting for it to get over. On the other hand, it was obvious that the Australians had done their homework.
Korea's skill and speed
Korea, famous for their fitness and agility, are ranked sixth in the world. They love to play full speed hockey and boast of a lot of skillful players with some solid defenders. Seo Jongho, Hyo Sik You, Lee Nam Yong and Nam Hyun Woo are their force. They build up with very high ball speed and don’t play many long balls while trying to bring the ball in the midfield to generate the attack from there. Jang Jong
Hyun is their weak player in build and defense but he is their main drag flicker along with Nam Hyun Woo and both of them have very good speed in their flicks.
Korea’s midfield generates the attack and joins it with the strikers who are very speedy, especially Seo and You. They like to enter in the circle from the flanks and have high speed restarts around the circle.
Though not good in defending the turn overs, when they do get the turn over, they are one of the best with their speed. One of their weak points is their goalkeeper who is not good on the top right and both high and low on the leftand comes out of the goal a lot. However, their penalty corner attack is good and they use variations with good straight drag flicks. In penalty corner defense they have very speedy first runners but they are not good in defending indirect variations.
Pakistan will be playing this match after putting up a bad performance against Australia. However, the Greenshirts should put that behind them and take this classification match seriously which will decide the seventh and eighth position to finish their campaign by getting the best possible seventh position.
Pakistan should make use of all their experienced players in this match and work as a unit in all the departments. Imran Shah should give a good performance in at least one match of the mega event.
Slow down the pace
Green machine should start the game with semi press and allow Korea to come from their left side in which they are not good. Pakistan's defense should be very active right from the first minute of the game and the whole team should be in connection until the end. Midfield should also be ready for the pressure from Koreans and Pakistan should attack from their right side and use short passes to beat the Korean defense.
They should do maximum overlaps to increase the number of the players in the attack. The Korean goalkeeper loves to go out of the goal every time so the strikers should use it smartly and try to give one extra pass in the circle to get an open goal in front of them. When Pakistan will be on the attack, the defenders should mark their free strikers well to avoid the turn overs.
On penalty corner attack, our first drag flickers should go on the right top of the Korean keeper with maximum force. On penalty corner defense, Pakistan's goal keeper should look for his right high and left low on the first shots and the defensive runs should be 3-1 most of the time.
It will be a high speed game so Pakistan should be using full advantage of the rolling substitutions to have fresh legs in the field at all times. Pakistan should not try to match the speed of their opponents and should try to keep the pace of the game a little slow as this will annoy the Koreans. By making simple fouls, the Korean attack can be broken in order to halt their rhythym and speed but Sohail Abbas' men should be very careful to avoid the cards.
It is also possible that this match goes in two sessions of extra time for a golden goal and maybe a shootout to determine the winner. If that happens then hopefully, the coaches have prepared the team well for extra time and shootout.
Players to watch
Muhammad Rashid, Sohail Abbas and Haseem Khan.