Two semi-finals of national hockey present contrasting flavours

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LAHORE, Jan 2 (APP): Two semi-finals of the 63rd Zaitoon National Hockey Championship, scheduled for Tuesday (tomorrow), are likely to present contrasting flavours keeping in view the strength of the respective opponents, here at the National Hockey Stadium.
Defending champion PIA will face off with Wapda at 12 noon and National Bank of Pakistan will clash with SSGC at 2:30 pm.
Interestingly, the two semi-finals present contrasting scenarios and
quality hockey of higher brand will be witnessed during both the ties.
PIA and Wapda, both beaming with former and present stalwarts of the
game, have been billed a match of nerves and it is going to be the most exciting game of the event as per predictions of the fans of the game.
The two sides in the first encounter are very rich in experience and in
the present scenario much reliance will be on old guards of the game.
Wapda, in fact, has as many as three national captains including Fareed, who skippered Pakistan in their last international outing, Asian Champions Trophy. The other two are former captains both big names, Sohail Abbas, the legendary drag flicker, holds the world record for maximum international goals (348). Also, midfielder Waseem Ahmed has made the most international appearances for Pakistan (410). It was nice to see the 40-year-old Sohail Abbas in a very good physical condition. In these nationals, he had played for long periods in all the matches.
Likewise, the PIA, the two-time defending champions, also boasts off
a number of players who have played for Pakistan. Most of them appeared in the past and only a few appeared for Pakistan’s national side in 2015.
Wapda team management comprising head coach, Muhammad Irfan Senior, Qamar Ibrahim and manager Shahid Ali Khan is quite confident to make it to the final and to perform a hat-trick of retaining the title.
The teams in the other semi-final are relatively young. NBP Pakistan has
eight members of Pakistan’s under-21 squad. This national under-21 were given a lot of international exposure in 2016. Till only a couple of weeks ago, the team was in the final phase of preparation for the Junior World Cup; they were cruelly deprived of participation.
NBP coach Tahir Zaman who is also the head coach of Pakistan under-21 is confident of his side’s success in the semi-final, setting aside the might of holders, the PIA.
Sui Southern Gas Company comprises of a few senior and a greater number of age group internationals including players from Pakistan under-18 squad.
Hence, it should be a battle of the youth. The final will be played on January 4.