Pakistan, England to clash in crucial match today

KARACHI: With two impressive victories in a row including one against top title contenders Australia, England have emerged as one of the most destructively attacking sides of the 2010 Hockey World Cup, writes Khalid Hussain.

But Pakistan will go all out on Thursday (today) to beat the English at their own game in a bid to stay alive in the race for the semifinals.

“England are a very attacking side, something they’ve proved in the matches against Australia and South Africa,” Shahid Ali Khan, the Pakistan coach, said in an interview from New Delhi on Wednesday.

“They attack in waves and also have two very good short corner specialists. They’ve won two high-scoring matches and seem to be in good form. But I’m confident that we can beat them (England) at their own game,” stressed Shahid whose team bounced back with a 2-1 triumph against Spain on Tuesday after suffering from a morale-shattering 1-4 defeat against old rivals India last Sunday.

In spite of the much-needed win against Spain, Pakistan are trailing at the fifth spot in Pool B behind England, Australia, Spain and India and need to win today’s encounter to remain in the hunt for a record fifth world title.

“Once again it’s a must-win game for us,” said Shahid, a former Olympian. “But the pressure has been released with a win against Spain and our confidence is back.”

When Pakistan last faced England, they beat them 2-0 in a Test series in England last summer and Shahid believes that his boys can do it again.

“We have beaten England in a Test series last year. It’s the same England team which is why I’m confident that we can beat them again.”

Pakistan spent a couple of hours watching footage of England matches and their coach is fully aware that a rampaging English attack will be tough to contain.

“There is no doubt that our defence will be under extra pressure tomorrow,” he said. “We will also need a lot of improvement in the midfield,” added the coach who is hoping that playmaker Waseem Ahmed will regain his lost form against England.

“Waseem is our key player but unfortunately he has been out of form. But he is very experienced and we are hoping that he will regain his form and strengthen our midfield.

Another cause for concern for the Pakistani management is that their main strikers Rehan Butt and Shakeel Abbasi have been unable to make their presence felt in the first two matches.

“To continue winning the coming matches we will need all out players to play their role, especially the senior ones,” said Shahid.

“So far, our forwards have been unable to play their best game but I’m sure that players like Butt and Abbasi will click soon.”

The coach is hoping that his boys will stick to the game plan like the way they did against Spain. “We decided to cramp the midfield against Spain and it worked. Against England, we will devise a game plan and I hope that the boys with stick to it.”

Today’s matches

Australia vs South Africa 16:05 (PST)

Pakistan vs England 18:05 (PST)

India vs Spain 20:05 (PST)