Hockey team returns after dismal Azlan Shah Cup

ISLAMABAD— Pakistan’s national hockey team returned home on late Tuesday night after its failure at the 22nd Azlan Shah Cup Hockey Tournament held in Malaysian city of Ipoh from March 9 to 17, local media reported on Wednesday.

Pakistani team continued its poor performance and failed to reach podium and stood last in the six-team event concluded on March 17.

The 18-member dejected team led by captain Muhammad Imran along with officials landed at the Allama Iqbal International Airport in eastern city Lahore.

Team’s head coach and manager Akhtar Rasool talking to media made justifications of the poor show in the event.

“We gave rest to some senior players and offered chance to five youngsters to express their abilities but unluckily they failed to fulfill our requirements,” Akhtar said.

The head coach further said that the team management has been providing exposure to young blood as part of the preparations for team’s main target of Asia Cup and next year’s World Cup.

But team’s coach Hanif Khan openly expressed his dejection over the poor game show by the Pakistan side.

“I am not satisfied with the youngsters, we hoped a lot from them but they failed. I accept that we played poorly in the event and hurt hockey fans,” said Khan while talking to media at the airport.

Pakistan’s campaign at the annual tournament started with a narrow win over defending champion New Zealand, the only victory in the event for Pakistan before losing a vital game against Australia with a big margin of 6-0.

Pakistan lost two matches at the hands of arch-rival India team; first a group match by 3-1 followed by a playoff match for the fifth position by 4-2 on Sunday.

It was the luck or something else for Pakistan side, playing with defensive strategy and unplanned inconsistent aggression, that it succeeded to level two games against South Korea and Malaysia.

In six games Pakistan could field only 11 goals while its opponents put ball into their net 20 times.

This is the second consecutive year that Pakistan performed so poorly in the annual event. Last year, Pakistan side could win only the first match against the minnows Argentinean team before losing five match continually.

The year 2012 brought success for Pakistan hockey team as it won a bronze medal in the Champions Trophy tournament in Australia and clinched the Asian Champions trophy tournament in Qatar by defeating its arch-rival Indian team.