Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Pakistan are back in contention for a semi-final slot after their hard-fought win against Spain, but they have their task cut out as they take on European champions England in a Pool B encounter of the Hockey World Cup on Thursday.

Pakistan left behind the disappointment of a 1-4 loss to India on Sunday to regroup and carve out a 2-1 win over Spain with a determined effort that also saw the sub-continental side cutting down on their traditional flair at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium.

Pakistan were well served by their forward Shakeel Abbasi whose searing runs down the right flank helped split open the Spanish defence and the team management would be hoping for a repeat performance from the 26-year-old against England who lead the six-team Pool B with six points after winning both their opening games.

After two games, Pakistan are on three points, same as India, Spain and Australia, and the two semi-final berths from the pool are up for grabs.

The Pakistan midfield led by Waseem Ahmed also put up a good show in blunting the Spanish attacks besides keeping the feederline active for the forwards and it would be interesting to see the strategy of England coach Jason Lee to contain them.

Sesasoned striker Rehan Butt is another player who came into his own against Spain after being bottled up by the Indians, but he will have his hands full against the solid England defence.

The two sides met in the classification match of the 2006 World Cup in the German city of Monchengladbach, with England finishing fifth following a 1-0 win.

Head-to-head, England have won three of the seven World Cup games against Pakistan and lost two.

England have had a fairy-tale start to their campaign shocking pre-tournament favourites Australia 3-2 in their opener, before prevailing over South Africa 6-4 Tuesday in the competition's 500th outing.

But as England captain Barry Middleton admitted, his side's performance against South Africa was far less convincing than their first match against Australia.

Australia have what seems to be a relatively easy game against South Africa, arguably the most inexperienced team in the pool, but they need to guard against complancency.

Only the third side from the African continent to play the big event after Kenya and Ghana, the South Africans have lost both their games, though they did throw some challenge against both Spain and England.

The Kookaburras badly mauled India 5-2 to signal they were back in their element after the upset against England and their speed and verve could prove too good for their rivals Thursday.