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Friday, May 13, 2011

Pakistan in resurgent form despite youth

Sultan Azlan Shah Cup Hockey Tournament 

IPOH: Pakistan’s manager said Friday that the Asian champions were seeing a return to form and eyeing victory in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, despite the relative youth of their side. Pakistan and Great Britain each have nine points with one game to go to decide who will meet World champions Australia in Sunday’s final. Great Britain will first play South Korea on Saturday followed by Pakistan against Malaysia. “I have told my players that we must play to win no matter what the result of the other match,” Pakistan team manager K.M. Junaid said. “We are under no illusion of the task that awaits us. Malaysia have always been a tough team to play, and they will certainly want to win as well,” he said.

“I also thank God almighty for what we have been able to achieve thus far after having come with a young team,” he said. The Pakistanis have eight players under 21. So far Pakistan have beaten old adversaries India, South Korea and New Zealand but lost against both Great Britain and Australia. Last November, Pakistan won the Asian Games gold medal, bolstering their confidence. Junaid said another title win would be a major boost to efforts to create a top team for their 2012 London Olympic challenge. “(The young players) are the future of Pakistan hockey, and I am glad that they are showing good form. We have to keep exposing them to tougher matches,” Junaid said.

Great Britain have vowed not to take South Korea for granted either. South Korea and India are both joint title holders for the cup, whose final was marred by rain last year. “I have said that we are here to win the title,” Great Britain coach Jason Lee said. “We will go all out to do that against Korea but at the same time we have to be on our toes from the start.” “Frankly it is in our hands to make the final and we have to get the job done,” he said. Behind Great Britain and Pakistan, New Zealand have seven points meaning the Kiwis could sneak into the final if both Great Britain and Pakistan lose their games and New Zealand win their match against Australia on Saturday.

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