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Easier group saved us from rock-bottom finish: Islah

August 09, 2012


Shakeel Abbasi (C) of Pakistan goes past defenders of South Korea. -Photo by AFP

KARACHI: Pakistan could have been playing the 11th position match instead of the seventh position one had the Green-shirts been playing in Group ‘B’ instead of ‘A’ at the London Olympics, said Olympian Islahuddin Siddiqui.

Speaking to Dawn from London soon after Pakistan edged past Korea 3-2 in the classification match to end up seventh in the Olympic hockey event, Islah said we could have been in India’s shoes but were lucky to be playing in the easier group among teams that didn’t carry that much weight.

“So the boys and team management should be ashamed of themselves if they think they achieved something by coming seventh out of the 12 participating teams,” he fumed.

Laying bare the statistics, he said: “In the five group matches that Pakistan played in the current Olympics, they won two, lost two and drew one. Doing so, they scored nine goals and conceded 16.

“Then if you look at our penalty-corners, we managed to get 12 of them in the first four matches as the last one against Australia saw us not even getting a single penalty-corner. Of these 12 we managed to convert just three.

“This shows a 25 per cent conversion rate in the group matches while the minimum should be 35 per cent. Meanwhile, the other five teams got 21 penalty-corners against us,” he pointed out.

“So looking at the goals conceded, one can figure out our team’s defence. And speaking of defence, what to say about the key person there, our goalkeeper Imran Shah! Now, if we had the seasoned Salman Akbar in the squad we may not have conceded so many goals. If any of the other 12 teams taking part in the competition also brought one goalkeeper, it was their best and most experienced man as no one takes such a big risk on a newcomer.

“Looking at our poor defence, we never had a chance to make it to the top four,” the expert pointed out.

“Obviously disappointed at having to play for seventh place, South Korea played the placement match halfheartedly though Pakistan really looked like they wanted to win this match to come back and tell the nation that they have bettered their eighth position of four years ago [in Beijing] by a spot,” said the former captain and coach.

“And yet they missed nine chances while their opponents missed eight in the placement match. Constant missing by Shafqat Rasool, Waqas Sharif was witnessed and the rest of our forward line. Pakistan got three penalty-corners, too, and captain Sohail Abbas couldn’t convert them as only the last one was converted by Mohammad Imran,” he said.

“Our missing ratio was very high in all the six matches that we played. It just shows that the team lacked proper training and was playing without any strategy,” he lamented.

“So this is where we stand, at number seven. And if we want to improve on that, we will now have to wait for the next Olympics in Rio De Janeiro in 2016. But seeing how things are at the moment who knows if we’ll even qualify for those Games,” he concluded with a sigh.