Pakistan in Champions Trophy semis after defeating Netherlands

Pakistan hockey players celebrate after beating world number three Netherlands 4-2 in the Champions Trophy quarterfinals. — Screengrab

 

BHUBANESWAR: The Pakistan field hockey team on Thursday stunned critics by beating Netherlands 4-2 in the quarterfinal of the Champions Trophy being played in India.

“I believe in my team, I believe in my coaches, all the boys played really well and we did a good job today,” captain Mohammad Imran said during the post-match presentation ceremony. “I would like to thank the Indian crowd for coming in and supporting Pakistan hockey team,” Imran said.

Netherlands, a strong side and number three in world ranking, were outclassed by the 11-ranked underdog Pakistani team. Mohammad Irfan scored two goals, while captain Mohammad Imran and Umar Bhutta directed the ball into the net one time each.

“Our tournament starts from today,” said an enthusiastic Shahnaz Sheikh, the national team's coach. “I am thankful to the people of Pakistan back home who prayed for us.”

While talking to DawnNews, former Olympian Waseem Feroz said, “After losing to all major teams in pool games, this is really an inspiring performance. Now Pakistan should seek to get a place in the finals.”

“We last won the World Cup in 1994 and since then the state of hockey in the country is on decline ... federation needs to focus on nurturing talent from grass root. We don't see hockey being played in schools or colleges,” Feroz said, adding that the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) should work on establishing a proper system for the game.

Lack of funds and financial support from the PHF has been affecting the game and players in the country. The national team was only able to participate in the Champions Trophy due to a private sponsorship from a businessman and has also had little exposure this year, even missing the Azlan Shah tournament in Malaysia due to financial constraints.

“We've hardly played any hockey over the past two years,” a dispirited Sheikh had said a day before as Pakistan remained the only team to finish without a point in the preliminary league of the Champions Trophy. “It is for other countries in Asia, mainly India, to play bilateral series with us so that we can gain financially.”

Pakistan had a forgettable tournament before the quarterfinal, suffering an embarrassing 8-2 defeat to pool topper England, while also losing 3-0 to Australia and 2-1 to Belgium in pool A matches.

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