LAHORE – The wild Group A is still wide open after Great Britain staged the best comeback of this Olympic hockey tournament to date, scoring three goals in a 19-minute span to recover from a three-goal deficit and draw current world champion Australia 3-3. James Tindall’s goal with 4:30 left in regulation capped the improbable comeback and threw the Group A standings back into chaos.
Australia and Great Britain now lead the hotly contested group with eight points, while Pakistan and Spain sit on seven points. It means the two semi-final spots all come down to Tuesday’s preliminary round finale when Australia take on Pakistan and Great Britain face Spain.
All the four teams in the group now are in a do-or-die battle on the last day of the group stage. Australia and Great Britain need a draw or victory to make it semi-finals while Pakistan and Spain need straight away wins to enter into the knock-out stage. In case of Pakistan, it is still an uphill task and odds are against them as they will face fast and furious champion Australia, who despite drawing two games still remain a team to beat and favourites to move on. Aussie slip-ups against Great Britain and Argentina have left them also on the brink and they will come hard on Pakistan as there is no room for complacency for any team.
Pakistan, who off to their Olympics campaign steadily despite the short comings met a heavy road block in shape of Great Britain who successfully exploited the weak points of Pakistan defence and inability of forwards to turn the chances into goals. After completely horrible performance against Great Britain, the Green Shirts showed the same weaknesses against South Africa and only positivity of the match was the hunger and self-belief that led them to in a position to get a shot at the Olympics podium.
Pakistan match against South Africa, in which where total nine goals scored and there were total 30 attacks on the goal posts from the both sides, was indeed the best match of this whole tournament so far and resulted in the favour green shirts but this victory shall not over shadow the shortcomings that we have seen again in this match.
The way defence has failed in last two matches is completely a nightmare before facing the haunting side of Australia. South Africa gained three penalty corners and they converted two of them into goals and allowing opposite side so many penalty corners at this stage of the match indicate that there is a lack of discipline in the D area of Green Shirts. Pakistan had the advantage of having senior players in their side, tough they have been a disadvantage too due to their stamina issues however senior players and their experience clicked during the most crucial situation of the match where Waseem Ahmed, Sohail Abbas, and Shakeel Ahmed attacked on the goals multiple times. However, the young guns like Abdul Haseem Khan and Shafqat Rasool must get the due credit for scoring first three goals for green shirts in first half.
Pakistan has throughout played attacking hockey in this tournament, apart from Team GB match where Green Shirts were completely helpless. The strategy of more players in mid-filed worked in first two matches but in the recent two games it seems as opposite sides have worked out on the loop holes in current field strategy of Pakistan. Therefore, Coach and senior team members must come-up with a better strategy against the favourite Australia. This factor must be kept in mind that Australian coach was special spectator of the match and it indicates that how closely Australia are looking at its opponents.
Pakistan must work on the most lacking side and that is defence especially the goal keeper department. Attack has been good in this tournament and to remain this attack effective it must be backed efficiently that was missing against GB. If Pakistan play their Asian-style, attacking hockey and match Australia’s fast pace, they can even slow them down to control the match and turn it in their favour. Pakistan have to control poor stopping and cover the crossing of the forward line, both towards the right and left, as the forwards just aren’t there on time to connect.
The recent two matches also showed that the goalkeeping choice is not even near to envious. Team’s head coach also expressed the same concerns over Shah, then why he did not ask the selectors for a back-up goalkeeper too. Going into the competition with one goalkeeper will remain a major blunder as Imran makes one mistake after another but cannot be replaced for there being no option.
Group A standings
Team M W T L GF GA GD Pts
Australia 4 2 2 0 16 5 11 8
Great Britain 4 2 2 0 13 7 6 8
Pakistan 4 2 1 1 9 9 0 7
Spain 4 2 1 1 7 9 -2 7
Argentina 4 0 1 3 4 11 -7 1
South Africa 4 0 1 3 8 16 -8 1