London - Pakistan beat China 3-1 to finish 7th at the Hero Hockey World League Semi-final Round at London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park on Sunday. With this victory, Pakistan are virtually assured of a place in the 2018 World Cup.

It was the match for the 7th and 8th position with Pakistan finishing 7th after defeating China 3-1 and booked a place in the next year World Cup. For the team at the 8th position, the qualification wasn’t guaranteed.

Pakistan cut it fine and till the end of the first 10th minute play no team could goal because the ball was confined to mid-field. Tension was mounting among the Pakistanis in the ground, on the bench and in the stands. In the 51st minute, Ammad Shakeel Butt, perhaps the most impressive Pakistani player in this event, beautifully robbed a defender. After a good run along the left flank, he slipped the ball to Dilber near the circle whose first touch found Umar Bhutta in an excellent position. Bhutta’s angular shot hit the right corner of the goal. A goal down, China put more players forward leaving gaps in the defence. Two more goals came in quick succession in the 56th minute. A sweeping counter starting from deep inside Pakistan’s territory resulted in Bhutta, again, making it 2-0 with a reverse flick. Then an excellent reverse hit from the left was deflected into the cage by the diving Irfan junior. China got a consolation goal with two minutes left on the clock.

A ball into the circle was well dispatched on the board by an unmarked Guo Xiaoping with a first time strike. It was quite an absorbing contest with stakes high for both the sides. The first-half saw the two sides creating chances through open play as well as the PCs. Third quarter was also entertaining; an up and down stuff at quite a fast pace and then arrived the exciting last quarter with goals aplenty.

STAFF REPORTER ADDS: Although Pakistan has virtually qualified for the 2018 Hockey World Cup, yet the players needed to improve their game, if they want to beat top hockey playing nations. Unfortunately, Pakistan hockey has been facing tough times as earlier, Pakistan team failed to qualify for the Rio Olympics 2016 for the first time in their hockey history.

Once there was a time when Pakistan team never needed to qualify for the World Cup in their peak times, rather the masses used to firmly believe that whether Pakistani athlete win gold in other games or not, but gold in hockey is sure. But when the national game started getting step-motherly treatment from the govt and sponsors, it started declining while the incompetent hockey officials added fuel to fire, as they couldn’t run the hockey affairs amicably and kept on ruining the game.

Now the situation is so worst that Pakistan hockey team is unable to get direct place in the mega events and instead they play qualifiers and struggle hard for booking berth in premier hockey events.