Coach Pakistan Shahnaz Sheikh would be a happy man seeing his charges overpower World No 2 The Netherlands in Champions Trophy quarterfinal, a feat that Pakistan pulled after a lapse of 16 years against the Dutch in the high-profile tournament. The victory is Pakistan’s first win against The Netherlands in the Champions Trophy, which took a total of 12 attempts, a run dating back to 1998.
Ending at bottom-rock fourth place in Pool A, World No 11 Pakistan hockey team has surprised everyone with this win as they stunned Pool B top ranked side to secure an unexpected place in the pre-finals of Champions Trophy.
No one would have given a second thought with conviction that Pakistan might win in the match, except Shahnaz Sheikh, who said that the green-shirts would use the experience they gained against the European teams in pool matches to beat The Netherlands in quarterfinals.
Although, amusing were the remarks for many and optimism at its peak, the green-shirts hushed up their critics with a formidable performance. They flourished against a team, who were among top title contender in the high-profile tournament.
The win against The Netherlanders has showed that Pakistan, ranked 11th in the international circuit, is a highly talented side. The men in green, a record four-time World Champions, still possess the firepower to outcompete top international teams. However, consistency should be gained and a will to go on with that is needed from them.
A straight three defeats, with a couple of them being humiliating, Shahnaz Sheikh, a former legendary Olympian, must have done something extra ordinary to stir heroism, breeding in his charges, which have enabled them to dangerous opponents.
Although Pakistan has a glorious past in the game of hockey, we must not forget that our players are underprivileged when we compare them with their foreign counterparts. The remuneration foreign players get and the infrastructure they utilize cannot be compared with what green-shirts have here in Pakistan, where the federation is always seen complaining lack of funds. However, it is an another debate whether federation properly use the funds or not.
The green-shirts playing in India, in spite of three straight defeats, has now won the hearts of hockey fans back home with only a single victory against a much tougher and higher ranked opponent. They have won the match when it mattered the most and the nation is hopeful that they emulate the same enthusiasm and energy in the semifinal on Saturday and qualify for the summit clash. And after seeing their team stun the expected finalist, the nation is optimistic that the men in green could claim the title!