Three-time Azlan Shah Cup winners Pakistan ended their campaign in Malaysia with a 2-2 draw against Korea, a result which meant that they missed out on the bronze medal playoff on goal difference.
Pakistan and Korea were tied on 4 points each before the match started and a win for either side would have assured them of a place in the 3/4th placing playoff. The point thus puts Korea in fourth position.
The Greenshirts, who put on much-improved performances in their last two games after being hammered by Australia and India, were once again in control of the match for a big part of the game but sloppy defending and poor finishing once again allowed their opposition to comeback.
Both teams started cautiously but as the match progressed Pakistan held majority of the possession and controlled the ball, threatening the Korean goal repeatedly.
Pakistan forced a penalty corner in the 10th minute but Mohammad Imran's attempt hit a defenders foot. From the ensuing penalty corner, Mohammad Irfan sent his attempt wide.
Korea won a penalty corner in the 16th minute but Nam Hyun Woo also failed to get his shot on target. From the counter attack Pakistan finally struck to take the lead in the 17th minute through Salman Hussain who was set up by Abdul Haseem Khan who broke through the left and sent in a teasing reverse stick cross that eluded the entire Korean defence.
In response, Korea started the second half strongly and forced two penalty corners, in the 37th and 39th minutes.
Off the second penalty corner, Hyun Hye Sung sent in a drag flick into the roof of the net, giving Pakistani keeper Imran Butt no chance at all and Korea were on level terms.
Pakistan remained undeterred and hit back through Haseem Khan, who deflected in a cross from the left in the 47th minute.
An own goal by Mohammad Irfan in the 53rd minute levelled the game but Pakistan had the opportunity to finish on top. Shafqat Rasool, however, made a mess of an easy chance in the 59th minute.
“It has been a humiliating campaign for Pakistan,” former Olympian Shahnaz Sheikh told PPI.
“Pakistan were been defeated by lowly-ranked India and the Greenshirts will now have to fight for a fifth place in spite of the fact that it went into the tournament seeded number two. Pakistan should have qualified for the final.”
Shahnaz added that the team’s performance in the tournament brought into limelight all the wrong policies the federation had been following.
“Pakistan were Asian champions and it was at least one of the best regional teams if not one of the best in the world. But they even failed to beat India, Malaysia or Korea, which should alarm the hockey chiefs of the country,” he said.
“The game-plan was flawed. We didn’t see any aggressive game from our players. The players were playing haphazardly in the tournament.”
In the other matches of the day, Australia qualified for the final when they edged New Zealand 3-2.
With the Aussie win, Malaysia was also through to the final, rendering the 2-2 draw against India of academic interest for the hosts. For India, though, the draw meant that they were out of contention for the bronze medal playoff, which will now be played between New Zealand and Korea.