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‘Australia can be beaten’

Published Aug 06, 2012 03:47pm


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Pakistan will have to keep its composure and move on the pitch as a unit. -Photo by AFP

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 South Africa and analyses their next opponents Australia who they play on Tuesday in a fight for a semi-final spot. 

What a fight back from Pakistan! They believed in each other and displayed great fighting spirit to earn three points against South Africa and remain in the hunt for the semi-finals. The last seven minutes of the game showed what Pakistan hockey is truly capable of, and scoring two goals in the dying minutes of the game was a great testament to their never-say-die attitude.

The start of the match, once again, was not ideal for Pakistan as South Africa managed a lead with just 1:37 on the clock. Pakistan sprung into action after that and upped the ante considerably. They managed to come back from being goals down on several occasions and that aspect of their game was particularly laudable.

They were very organized in the full press and even in half-court press. Waseem Ahmad is no doubt having a great tournament so far but it was heartening to see Fareed Ahmed step up too and provide the midfield with the much-needed impetus. He had an outstanding game. It was also great to see Haseem Khan scoring two goals and assisting two. Muhammad Rizwan (Sr) showed great skills on the left side. Muhammad Imran played like a mature defender and with him captain Sohail Abbas led from the front in the back. Communication was excellent in the front line when going for full press but Pakistan need to consistent throughout the match. They were good in patches and seemed to take the foot off the pedal on several occasions thus giving South Africa the chance to equalize.

Pakistan will need to keep their composure to avoid getting carded. It cost them against South Africa and against Australia it may open the gates. Once again Pakistan did not employ any indirect variation of PCs which was shocking to say the least. Another shocker was goal-keeper Imran Shah’s performance. He should thank his teammates who scored five goals otherwise his pathetic effort would have been in the limelight. He needs to be stable under the bars.

Overall, it was a very good and important victory for Pakistan but they cannot afford to miss easy chances anymore.

Mighty but not invincible

Australia are the top-ranked team in the world and though they are beatable, there is no doubt that they pose the biggest challenge for all participating teams. They have been very consistent for the last few years and have won all major events in the lead-up to the Games. They have some outstanding players like Jamie Dwyer, Eddie Ockenden and Mark Knowles and the most successful coach in the world in Ric Charlesworth. Australia are renowned for playing  very fast hockey and are very dangerous in the first and last 15 minutes of the game and normally score in this period. They solely play pressure hockey – their PC attack has not been good so far but they use lot of variations on the top of the circle. Christopher Ciriello is their main drag flicker and his favorite angles, the top left and bottom right, will really test Imran Shah. They have good first runners in PC defense and their defenders and midfielders connect seamlessly. Very famous for quick restarts, they can make the opponents pay dearly. After making a great start to the tournament, the last two games have seen them struggling somewhat. Great Britain came from 3-0 down to draw against them but the 2-2 draw against Argentina was the real upset of the Olympics.

It may seem they are having trouble holding their lead but they will definitely go for goals. There is great understanding between their strikers and the buildup to their attack involves the midfield. Pakistan should watch out for high balls as the Kookaburras move very well in the deep zone. They are very good in covering the second post and score a lot of goals like that.

Australia will most definitely be on the lookout for goals to close out their opponents and will play hard-hitting hockey in the Pakistani defense to get PCs and deflections in front of the goal mouth.

Hold fort and reap the rewards

As I said earlier, Australia can be beaten. Pakistan have always contested well against Australia and beat them in front of their home crowd in Perth last year in a 4-nation event. Pakistan should start with half-court press and try to hold them in the first 15 minutes which will irritate the Aussies. Pakistan have to show great patience and should realise that they will get plenty of scoring opportunities in the 70 minutes.

The Greenshirts should not try to beat the Aussie defense with individual skill but go on the offense as a unit as their defenders are very good in one-on-one situations. Pakistan have to be at their best in counter control as the world champions are very fast in turn overs. Communication will be key.

Pakistan will have to keep the Australian midfield under constant pressure to stop them from generating attacks and its defense will have to be at its best. For goal-keeper Imran Shah, this is a great opportunity to prove all the critics wrong and he should be aiming to be the hero for his country. Shah should put what’s happened in the tournament so far behind him and stand under the bars with a big heart.

Pakistan’s midfield should not hold the ball much and instead deliver it quickly as the Aussies love to put pressure in that area of the pitch to create goal-scoring opportunities.

Waseem and Fareed have been doing a great job in this department and they should keep improving

Time for penalty-corner change-up

In PC attack Sohail should still be the first choice and select angles after thorough video analysis of their goal-keeper and first runner. Even if Sohail is successful, Pakistan should look for indirect variations to ease the pressure on their captain.

When defending PCs, Imran Shah should wait longer for the ball before reacting and be stable on the first shot. Pakistan should run mostly 3-1 full and also change the position of their line stopper.

Fluid strikers needed

If Pakistan's strikers remain static, the Aussies will love it and will not have any problem in putting pressure on Pakistan's defense. So they have to do lot of running without the ball – same for the midfield – to create gaps for the build up.

Pakistan should use the referrals very smartly as they wasted them in the last match and missed out on some clear PCs.

Missing chances will not be acceptable in this match so strikers should be at their best and should finish at least 70% of the chances they get. Aussies defend with a lot of players so Pakistan should use the maximum number of transfers which will definitely give them a lot of space and opportunity to attack.

This will without any doubt be a high-pace game so a lot of rolling substitutions should be utilized.

Pakistan should treat this as the quarter-final of the Olympics and play with great intensity. It will be a great game to watch and the team which plays with more responsibility will win.

Players to watch:

No particular player can be singled out as Pakistan requires the whole squad to fire. My best wishes and prayers are with them, with a special ‘good luck’ for goalie Imran Shah.


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Comments (36) Closed

Malik Adnan Aug 07, 2012 01:03pm
I hope that Inshallah pakistan will beat australia and not only this but, also pakistan will win gold this year. I love my country and our players. Its a fact that today our hockey team is not performing well , but there are many reasons .We expect our hockey player to perform like Australia , Spain and Argintina , but have we provided them the same facilities. Its a big question.We need to support our players , not to discourage them. And I am quite hopefull that a day will come when once again Pakistan hockey team will be world,s NO1.
Omer Asad Aug 06, 2012 05:47pm
Salman Akbar should be playing! May God help Imran Shah!
Salman Shakeel Aug 07, 2012 06:25am
This goal keeper is same like pathetic and poor wicket keeper of Pakistan, Kamran Akmal The only difference is Imran Shah stands infront of bars and misses the opportunities to save and Kamran Akmal stands behind the wickets and misses the opportunities to catch. Such a pity out of our 18 Billion population,we cant find a good goal keeper or a wicket keeper. Salman Akbar , your analysis is quite good and I have been reading it throughout Olympics. I would suggest you that you also reconsider playing in Pakistan team as you had a tremendous talent.
ahmet abdulaziz Aug 07, 2012 06:15am
There is nothing that cannot be achieved. Pakistan will rise.
MHashmi Aug 07, 2012 07:58am
Dear all National Hokey Players,, Simply I would like to say regarding all about our National Hokey Team, if all players has collective commitment to get benefit from a every single micro second time during their performance do that , "hope is best and expectation is worst", so being a believer remember that you have TWO convincing POWER, one is inner spiritual / physical power and second material power as well, while other has one ....even though , we believe every thing goes well by the grace of almighty ALLAH. with all of you ..Amin
Rehman Aug 07, 2012 08:55am
Does anyone know how to watch this match for free online
Asad Aug 07, 2012 10:50am
or 1/100
junaid Aug 06, 2012 04:39pm
lol 'good luck' for the goalie! lets hope its 'good luck' u mean !! haha! aniway good synopsis but u forgot to mention tat Pak happens to b the Asian champs if they r the world champs but u got a point there about fluid strikers.. a lot being said about that as well ! aniway all prayers for u and the team !! lets hope for the best and lets not complete this proverb ;)
Cyrus Howell Aug 06, 2012 04:52pm
The team that wins will be the team who want it the most. Playing in Britain and especially London is an advantage Australia. They have to suffer verbal put downs from the English.
fawad Aug 06, 2012 04:55pm
I must say that seniors like Rehan BUTT and Abbasi have not come up with the expectations so far.
Waqar Aug 07, 2012 06:07am
Pakistan must have to play like against as RSA..... & plz plz dont waste the chance,, God plz no rain in LONDON<, Our S.abbas will do his best & hopefully insha ALLAH pakistan will play against Germany in the S. final
zakir Aug 06, 2012 06:12pm
Pakistan will repeat Los Angeles 1984 Olympic history inshaallah...
haider Aug 06, 2012 06:35pm
if Pakistan need to win i must they need to give value to the possession of ball. it has been seen a number of time that PAK lost possession of ball by just throwing useless AREAL ball or just hitting the ball hard (raised ball)
AHMED Aug 06, 2012 06:51pm
@fawad performance in a math dep a lot on match up in the games...Shakeel played very good in SA match, it was his first attempt that Haseen Khan put in the goal and he was very active and instrumental in pushing the ball up court. They all tried their best
M. Toor Aug 06, 2012 07:27pm
I am surprised Salman Akbar is not saying any thing about the FIXED game played by Aus and GB to eliminate spain and Pak. Scoring 3 goals in last 19 minutes from 3-0 deficit against Australia, I mean c'monnnnn. In terms of Pakistan chances, as Goal Keeper Imran Shah's horror show continues, it would be very difficult.
cdtoluca Aug 06, 2012 08:11pm
I doubt the match was fixed. If Australia and England lose their last matches they will be both out of the semifinals. Why would the FIX themselves into that position.
Shafi Aug 07, 2012 10:13am
Is Imran Shah is the cousin of great Kamran Akmal? Even Nepal has better goal-keeper than Pak.
samreena Aug 06, 2012 09:11pm
Im not worried for pakistan hockey only worried about d goalie IMRAN SHAH...
ahmed Aug 06, 2012 09:13pm
no........... same people same blood. occupied forign land
azhar Aug 06, 2012 09:39pm
very well said Salman Akbar that first 15 minutes is crucial.. hoping for paksitan victory.
Syed Aug 07, 2012 10:59am
Spot on Samreena! To conceed 15 Goals and score only 9..there must be two weaks in your team 2nd is defence and 1st is Imran Shah. He failed to deliver and Aussies are running away with a huge victory as we speak! There is no place for Imran Shah and I'm pretty much surprised that there is no alternative to it (HIM!)...where are our Salman AKHBARs of this generation?
SALEEM KAZMI Aug 06, 2012 11:59pm
They should changed the goal keeper with one who was not selected because selectors didn't like him or he didn't have the domicile from required city but he had skills far better than the existing goal keeper to avoid certain defeat.
Noman Aug 07, 2012 01:25am
A 3-3 result between GBR and Aus was the *best possible* one for Pakistan and Spain. If the game was fixed, not only they are fixers but idiots too. It was a well fought game by GBR, and a remarkable comeback, similar to how Pakistan scored two goals in last six minutes on the same day to win a game. Good luck to Pakistan. I hope the goal keeper does well today.
HockeyLover Aug 07, 2012 01:27am
I agree with you... I predict 5-1 to Australia.
Rizwan Hamid Aug 07, 2012 01:35am
If Pakistan wanted to nullify the "fixed " result as you are trying to insinuate, they should have beaten Spain and at least had a draw against Britain. Then they would not have to worry. Let's stop the excuses . In 1968, our coach said that if Pakistan can beat Holland in the league matches, they will go straight to the finals. As a college kid, I remember hearing the news that we beat Holland 6-0. We won the gold that year. We didn't need numbers, and math and depend on other's results to qualify for the semis. We qualified because we were better. Plain and simple
Muneer - Aug 07, 2012 01:43am
Go Pakistan Go.....
Rizwan Hamid Aug 07, 2012 01:54am
For the past 25 years this is how Pakistan Hockey and the powers that be, approach every tounament. 1) Before the tournament : We will inshallah win the Gold. We will win the Champions Trophy, The olympics, The World Cup, The Asian games. etc, etc. 2)Halfway through the tournament: The boys did not play well... The boys missed a lot of chances.... but we can still qualify if..... such and such happens..( sound familiar? ) 3) After the tournament. ( after finishing near the bottom of the heap) Umpiring was biased.... the turf was green, the turf was blue, they have better facilities, their nutrition is better, they can run faster, they have more stamina....... we left our bangles behind, how could we play without them.... BUT, AS IN WORLD CUP 1986--- WE BEAT INDIA FOR 11TH -12TH PLACE. So if we beat India then the world is fine, we are on top of the Hockey world !!!! They have succeded in making a monkey of the whole nation, and the whole nation deserves to be the monkey for it accepts all the lame excuses, nor has it done anything to change the situation. Maybe they will bring home the Gold when they make the whole turf Pink to match their dress color.
Talha Aug 07, 2012 03:56am
good insights. other than all this, why dont you write on the stance on goal keeping taken up by our board? why were u not included in the squad? eager to hear that.
Mohsin Aug 07, 2012 04:52am
Dear many kids play hockey in Pakistan now? O r will you send your kid to play hockey....when there is no new talent coming in hockey team then how could you expect that Pakistan will win gold?? Its already a big acheivement for world number 9 to be in the contest at the final day of the knockouts deciders. People like you is always a source of discouragement for the others and the country. may Allah help Pakistan and bring glory to this country once again...Aaamein!!
Mohsin Aug 07, 2012 04:58am
then i think u didnt watch the match against SA very closely
Salman Nazir Aug 07, 2012 05:28am
Pakistan should have to play offensively not defensively , and strikers like Rehan Butt, shakeel Abbasi and Abdul Haseem khan plays Vital role for Pakistan , Pakistan defenders should cut off the attacking moves of Aussies. All Eyes on Imran Shah, He should have to perform much better as compared to previous Games..... Best Of Luck Green Shirts,,,,, Inshallah Pakistan will Win.... Ameen
Osman Aug 07, 2012 08:28am
I hope there are not 18 Billion of us already!! Last time I checked, we were about 1/10th of that number! :)
Kashif Aug 07, 2012 08:31am
Great Anlaysis salman, Best of luck for team Pakistan
babu Aug 07, 2012 09:23am
as India fall, v proud our neighbour rise
Fayzee Aug 07, 2012 09:54am
Is our goal keeper Imran Shah that bad that he is being referred to as Kamran Akmal. But hold on, Kamran has made a comeback. So, where do we stand now? Anyhow, all the wishes and prayers for the Pakistani hockey team to excell today and beat the Aussies and come back with the GOLD.
arun Aug 07, 2012 05:50pm
i predict 0-7 to Australia :)