Pakistan eying podium finish at Asia Hockey Cup to earn World Cup berth

ISLAMABAD, May 18 (APP): National hockey team manager Khawaja Muhammad Junaid on Wednesday said that qualifying for the next year’s World Cup would be the main objective for his side at the Asia Cup.
“The top three teams will make a cut to the FIH Men’s Hockey World Cup in India in 2023. Hence we are eying a podium finish at the event,” Junaid told APP on phone before flying to Indonesia along with the Pakistan team.
The 11th edition of the eight-team continental hockey competition is set to be staged in Jakarta, Indonesia from May 23 to June 1. Pakistan, who are scheduled to reach in that country on Thursday will face arch-rivals India in a high-voltage inaugural match.
Pakistan have been placed in Pool A, along with India, Japan, and the hosts Indonesia. Pool B includes South Korea, Malaysia, Bangladesh and Oman.
“We are in a comparatively tough pool. Our first fixture is against India, who’ve played around 100 international matches during the past three years, while during the same period we’ve just played seven to eight matches against the world’s best sides, including the recently-held five-match Europe series.”
“But we’ve been working really hard for the last four months. I think our team is in good shape and ready to perform at the big stage,” he added.
He said during the Europe tour Pakistan Hockey Federation gave a chance to young guns and the experience had been very good. “Our seven players made an international debut during the Europe tour. These young guns lived up to the expectations. They along with senior players performed well and proved that they were capable of beating any side in the world.
“But they need to learn consistency. They need to guard against a pompous mentality otherwise you’ll win on the first day and lose on the second day.”
According to Junaid, the Europe tour has helped a lot in identifying the team’s grey areas and plug in the loopholes. “Our head coach Sigfried Aikman is well aware of the techniques of Indian and Japanese teams and has devised the national team’s strategy to face them accordingly in Asia Cup.”
He said modern hockey had become very fast and the players had been asked to play aggressively right from the outset. “The players are excited to deliver. The Asia Cup will also help us see the level where they are at the moment. We are keen to see whether they can execute the style of play that we’ve envisioned for them or not,” he added.
In their second match, the Green Shirts will take on Indonesia on May 24. They will meet Japan on May 26 in their third match. All the fixtures will be played at Gelora Bung Karno Sports Complex, Gelora, Central Jakarta.
Both Pakistan and India have won the Asia Cup three times. Pakistan lifted the title in 1982, 1985 and 1989, whereas India won it in 2003, 2007, and 2017. South Korea is the event’s most successful team, claiming the title in 1994, 1999, 2009, and 2013.