AFTER being thrown out of the medals race following a highly embarrassing thrashing by Australia in the last group match, a downtrodden Pakistan side now look to salvage some pride as they take on South Korea in the 7-8 position match at Riverbank Arena here on Thursday.
In case of a win against the Koreans, Pakistan will finish seventh in the event, one place above the awful eighth spot they registered at the 2008 Beijing Games.
Prior to their must-win match against high-flying Aussies on Tuesday, Pakistan were into the reckoning for a place in the semi-finals. But the forgettable 0-7 hammering — one of the worst ever in an otherwise quite rich history of Pakistan hockey — expelled the Green-shirts from the last-four stage.
Out of the medals race, Sohail Abbas and his men will now be facing South Korea, who are known for their stamina and agility.
The inconceivably pathetic manner Pakistan players performed in the do-or-die game, at times it seemed they have assembled in the ground just to help Australia avoid exit from the medals race.
With no energy in their attack, Pakistan’s defence strategy was an equal disaster as the Australians remained in Pakistan’s half for majority of the game’s duration, considering it as their second home.
“Yes, there was no fighting spirit, which was a fundamental requirement against the Australians. I could not understand what happened to our boys, it is still beyond my imagination,” Pakistan’s coach-cum-manager Khawaja Junaid said.
Interestingly, Junaid, after a terrible end to his team’s campaign for an Olympic medal, tried to defend his charges.
“Just one match [against Australia] caused trouble for us. Otherwise, the overall performance in other [group] matches was quite good,” he stated, perhaps forgetting the 1-4 drubbing his team had to bear at the hands of Great Britain. Even against South Africa, Pakistan barely escaped a 3-4 defeat before two goals in the dying minutes of the match gave them a 5-4 face-saving win.
“Now we will try our best to topple South Korea, which is also a good side, to obtain the seventh position in Olympics. Though the seventh position is not attractive, still it will help us improve our ranking,” he added.
In another crucial Group ‘A’ match late on Tuesday, Spain played against Great Britain under a must-win situation to move into the semi-finals. Though they failed to achieve the target after a 1-1 draw, the way Spaniards, unlike their Pakistani counterparts, fought it out was a treat to watch.
Senior players — Rehan Butt, Sohail Abbas, Shakeel Abbasi, and Waseem Ahmed — remained very much off-colour in almost all the matches held so far. It signals that time has come for them to call it a day so that Pakistan could groom talented upcoming youngsters to prepare a formidable team for the 2014 World Cup.
The PHF had targeted podium finish at the London Olympics. However, the horrible outcome in the Australia match shattered all their plans.
However, PHF president Qasim Zia and secretary Asif Bajwa, who are here to watch the matches, are reluctant to comment on the Australia match.
“The situation is disappointing. But at the moment it is better we motivate our players for the match against South Korea,” Qasim told Dawn. “It is better we talk about the [team’s] performance after the end of the tournament.”
South Korea are also a tough side, and taking them easy would be a huge blunder by the Pakistan camp. In their group matches, Korea tasted three defeats while recording two wins. They defeated New Zealand and India but lost to the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium.
On the other hand, Pakistan earned two wins, beating Argentina and South Africa but conceded defeats at the hands of Australia and Great Britain besides playing a draw against Spain.
Today’s matches (All times PST): 9-10 place: New Zealand v Argentina (1230) 7-8 place: Pakistan v South Korea (1530) First semi-final: Australia v Germany (1930) Second semi-final: Netherlands v Great Britain (0000)