New-look Pakistan upbeat



Kuantan (17 Oct, 2016): Defending champions Pakistan arrived in the 4th edition of the QNET Men’s Asian Champions Trophy 2016 in Kuantan, Pahang  looking to change their fortunes around and fortify their position at the top of world hockey once again.

Khawaja Junaid, head coach of the two-time Asian Champions Trophy winners, said on Monday his young players have been working on weaknesses discovered during the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh this year and have come around since with great satisfaction.

“After the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup we worked on our weakness and I believe we have overcome a little bit but it is a long procedure and there are no short cuts in minimising grey area,” said Khawaja as he puts his players through an hour-long training session ahead of Thursday’s opening match against Malaysia at the Wisma Belia Hockey Stadium in this coastal city.

The Pakistanis lost 0-1 to Malaysia in a pool match at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup – which was their last international assignment in the last seven months and finished fifth in the pool standing. They defeated Canada 3-1 in the fifth-sixth classification match.

In past Asian Champions Trophy editions, Pakistan has been the most successful team with two Asian Champions Trophy gold medals (2012 and 2013) and silver, while India has occupied the top of the podium once in 2011. Malaysia won bronze s in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

“This time my team is physically and mentally in good shape than they were during the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup and we need a little bit more time to get back at the top level. Players have to show their potential in the Asian Champions Trophy,” he said.

The team has been insulated with three new players for the tough challenge ahead especially against host Malaysia followed by 2014 Asian Games gold medallist India, China, Japan and Korea.

However, Khawaja believes the players are young and will put in more energy in the tournament but still need all the experience.

His expectations of Pakistan in the Asian Champions Trophy – “We are defending champions. Almost 10 players from the team that won this event last time in 2013 are not here. There is a total change. We have an almost new team and we will try our level best to finish at the top,” said the coach.

The Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) has named several senior players in the squad for Asian Champions Trophy. The announcement came after the three-match series between the national senior and junior teams in Lahore.

Defender Mohammad Irfan leads the team as team captain with Ammad Shakeel Butt playing a supporting role in both the Asian Champions Trophy and Sultan of Johor Cup (SOJC) scheduled in Johor Baru from Oct 1-11.

Pakistan’s main target in the Champions Trophy would be obtaining maximum points to help the 13th-ranked Pakistan move up in the FIH world rankings.

“Of course, while the main target is to defend the title successfully, it is also our aim to obtain maximum points during this ranking tournament to improve Pakistan’s position in the world rankings,” he maintained.

Pakistan squad – Goalkeepers: Imran Butt and Amjad Ali.

Defenders: Aleem Bilal, Mohammad Irfan (captain), Ammad Shakeel Butt.

Midfielders: Rashid Mahmood, Tasawar Abbas, Nawaz Ashfaq, Fareed Ahmad, Toseeq Arshad, Mohammad Rizwan Junior.

Forwards: Mohammad Irfan junior, Umar Bhutta, Arslan Qadir, Ali Shan, Ejaz Ahmad, Mohammad Rizwan senior, Abdul Haseem Khan.

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