Pakistan Reach Nations Cup Hockey Semis on Goal Average

Pakistan reach Nations Cup hockey semis

KARACHI: Pakistan and France have advanced to the semi-finals of the FIH Hockey Men’s Nations Cup in Gniezno, Poland, after an electrifying 11-goal match.

In Pool B, France emerged first, with Pakistan following in second place. Malaysia claimed third by defeating Canada earlier in the day. France secured the top spot with a 6-5 win over Pakistan in a thrilling encounter.

The French team, hosts of the upcoming Olympics, capitalized on Pakistan’s defensive lapses early on. Victor Charlet opened the scoring in the seventh minute. As the first quarter neared its end, Eliot Curty assisted Blaise Rogeau, who struck the bar to make it 2-0. Gaspard Baumgarten increased the lead to 3-0 with seven minutes remaining in the first half. Charlet added another through a penalty corner two minutes later.

Despite their defensive shortcomings, Pakistan’s attack has been a highlight. Abu Mahmood converted a penalty stroke in the 26th minute. Moments later, Murtaza Yaqoob scored from a rebound after Sufyan Khan’s shot was saved, narrowing the deficit to 2-4 by halftime.

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France dominated the third quarter, with Charlet completing his hat-trick from another penalty corner in the 39th minute. Pakistan responded quickly in the final quarter through Ashraf Rana Waheed, assisted by Amad Butt. Rehman Abdul brought Pakistan closer at 4-5 in the 52nd minute, with Butt playing a key role again. Hannan Shahid equalized in the 56th minute after Mahmood’s initial shot was blocked.

However, France’s Charlet, who started the scoring, sealed the win with another penalty corner goal. Post-match, Charlet praised Pakistan’s skilled play, stating, “Against a huge hockey nation like Pakistan, you have to be good as they have many great players.”

Pakistan’s recent performances, including their unbeaten run to the Azlan Shah Cup final, have shown signs of revival. Despite losing the final to Japan on penalties, the team, under Dutch coach Roelant Oltmans, has earned praise for their spirit and skills.

The Pakistan government has also recognized the team’s efforts. Last month, PM Shehbaz Sharif awarded each player one million rupees, boosting their morale significantly.

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