LAHORE : Head coach of the Pakistan senior hockey team, Khawaja Muhammad Junaid said the new look Pak team will throw a decent challenge in the World Hockey League in England next month to qualify for the World Cup.
“The team is a blend of youth having nine new players but I have a firm conviction about my team that it will be qualifying for the next year’s World Hockey Cup to be played in India”, former Pakistan captain said while talking to APP here on Tuesday.
Some people call the team “underdogs” because of presence of young players who are without much international experience and exposure but I can firmly say that these players are in the process of making and will rise to the occasion in the World League”, team’s head coach said.
In all ten top teams will be featuring in the World League and six will qualify for the Cup. Pakistan will launch its campaign in the event by taking on mighty Holland on June 15, followed by a clash against Canada on June 16. Green shirts will face off with arch rivals India on June 18 following their last pool match against Scotland on June 19.
“All the teams, barring Scotland, are superior in ranking and when people call the team underdogs or under strength they are right to say so as we are at number 14th in the world ranking and we need a rare guard action from the team to qualify for the Cup and to dispel this impression about our team”,he said. The head coach said Pak team enters in the World League with nine match experience.
“We have played four matches at home against Pak Whites and Pak Development squads recently and we will be playing five matches,three against Ireland national side on June first,third and fourth in Belfast and two against their U21 team to fully warm up for the League”,said the former celebrated forward.
“Even Irish team is far better in ranking being the world number nine”, ,he said,adding,”The way our team performed in the recent tours of New Zealand and Australia it visibly indicates that the young players are justifying their presence in the team and learning with each passing day by putting in hard work maintaining top class physical fitness”,said Junaid .
He expressed his gratitude to the President,Pakistan Hockey Federation, Brig retd Khalid Sajjad Khokhar and Secretary,Shahbaz Ahmad Senior,for infusing young blood in the team and extending cooperation for the grooming of team,keeping an eye on the future of Pak hockey. “The present regime of the PHF is focusing on the formation and training of different tiers of the national teams which aims at securing the future of the game and bringing back lost glory”, team’s head coach said.
He said the formation of junior team and Pak development squad will serve as pipeline to produce finished products for the Pak senior team in years to come.
“Our initial target is to inspire the team to perform to a higher level in the World League to qualify for the Cup and then to chalk out a plan to prepare it on solid lines to give a memorable performance in the World Cup”,he said.-APP