Pakistan beat Japan 3-1 to qualify for hockey World Cup

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan booked a place in the final round of the next year''s hockey World Cup (HWC) with a convincing 3-1win over Japan in the final match of the qualifiers at Lille (France) on Sunday.

Penalty corner specialist Sohail Abbas scored twice off the short corner set-pieces on either side of the half time whistle to steer Pakistan team to victory.

Spearhead Abdul Haseem Khan opened the scoring for Pakistan four minutes after the start before Sohail Abbas came into action with a 24th minute conversion of a short corner.

Japan reduced the margin through Shibushi who found the target from a penalty corner in the 27th minute with Pakistan leading 2-1 at the halfway stage.

Sohail Abbas widened Pakistan''s lead with another successful strike in the second period of a fast-paced match.

Pakistan then missed a couple of sitters but their defence, particularly the goalkeeper, stood firm against the repeated Japanese attacks, according to reports available here.

With victory in the play-off match to decide the first position in this six-Nation qualifying tournament, Pakistan grabbed the lone qualifying spot for the final round of the hockey World Cup 2010 to be played at New Delhi in February-March next year.

Pakistan, the four-times World Cup winners, will now join the nine other teams, with two places still up for grabs, which have already made it to the final round.

International Hockey Federation (FIH) will soon hold another two qualifying tournaments, one in New Zealand and the other in Argentina, to fill the vacant berths for the final round.

The final standings in the qualifying round at Lille were: 1-Pakistan, 2-Japan, 3-Poland, 4-France, 5-Russia, and 6-Italy.

Pakistan, which had to appear in the World Cup qualifiers for the first time ever, had beaten Japan 6-1 in the league, also defeating Italy, Russia, France before being beaten by Poland in the last league encounter.

Despite defeat by Poland, Pakistan topped the league points table, thus setting up a first-position duel against fellow Asians Japan.