What a fightback 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; 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 to take lead in quick time. However, Pakistan sprung into action after that and increased the tempo considerably. They managed to come back after being in arrears on more than one occasion and that aspect of their game was particularly laudable.
No doubt Waseem Ahmad has had a great tournament so far but it was heartening to see Fareed Ahmed contributing well and providing the midfield with the much-needed impetus.
It was also great to see Haseem Khan scoring two goals and assisting in two other. Mohammad Rizwan Sr showed great skills on the left side while captain Sohail Abbas led from the front throughout.
Pakistan will need to keep their composure to avoid getting carded in Australia clash. It cost them against South Africa and against the Aussies, it may prove decisive.
Once again Pakistan did not employ any indirect variation of penalty corners which was shocking, to say the least. Another shocker was goal-keeper Imran Shah’s performance. He should thank his team-mates who scored five goals otherwise his pathetic effort would have ended Pakistan campaign in the Games.
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. Christopher Ciriello is their main drag flicker and his favorite angles, the top left and bottom right, will really test Imran Shah.
However, 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.
As I said earlier, it is possible to beat them. 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.
The Green-shirts should not try to beat the Aussie defence with individual skill but go on the offense as a unit as their defenders are very good in a one-on-one situation. Pakistan have to be at their best in counter control as the world champions are very fast in turn overs. And, of course, communication will be key between the midfield and the goalkeeper.
If Pakistan’s strikers remain static, the Aussies will love it and will not have any problem in putting pressure on Pakistan’s defence. So they have to do lot of running with the ball — same for the midfield — to create gaps for the build up.
Also, Pakistan should use the referrals very smartly as they wasted them in the last match and missed out on some clear penalty corner opportunities.