Sports, Hockey Aisa Cup 2013 : Buoyed up by their good showing in the group matches, Pakistan are confident of staying alive in their hunt for a World Cup berth by scalping defending champions South Korea in the Asia Cup semi-finals in Ipoh (Malaysia) on Friday (today).
Pakistan won all their Pool A games convincingly and are now ready to go all out for a victory against the Koreans to seal a place in Sunday’s finale of the eight-nation contest.
But they are fully aware that unlike their Pool A rivals – hosts Malaysia, Japan and Chinese Taipei – South Korea won’t be easy opponents.
“We know that to beat the Koreans, our boys will have to raise their game tomorrow,” said Tahir Zaman, Pakistan’s coach. “We have been working really hard and are ready to give our best to beat the Koreans for a place in the final,” he added.
Four-time world champions Pakistan have to win the Asia Cup as the tournament provides them their last chance to make the cut for next summer’s World Cup to be played at The Hague. If they fail to win the title then it would be for the first time that the World Cup would not feature the Green-shirts since its inception back in 1971.
The Pakistanis carried out a marathon training session under hot and humid Ipoh conditions on Thursday, looking to find ways and means to conquer the Koreas, currently Asia’s top-ranked hockey team. The Koreans have already qualified for World Cup 2015.
Both teams last met in the World League semi-finals in Johor Baru last month, with South Korea edging Pakistan 4-3 in the quarter-finals.
Muhammad Imran, Pakistan’s captain, announced on Thursday that his team was ready for the “do-or-die mission”.
“We must win the match … but it’s never easy playing against the Koreans, who never stop creating chances until the very last seconds of the match,” said the seasoned defender.
“The pressure will definitely be on us. We must be on our toes for the whole duration.
“It will be a big blow if we were to lose to them in the semis as it will kill our hopes of playing in the World Cup for good.
“We need to stay calm and capitalise on the chances created.”
Shin Seok-kyo, South Korea’s coach, is expecting a tough game against Pakistan.
“Matches against Pakistan have always been touch-and-go … it won’t be any different this time,” said Seok-kyo.
“I’m confident that my players will step up a gear and play their best against Pakistan, who have been the most impressive team in this tournament.
“Our only setback is that we have lost the services of playmaker and centre-half Hong Eun-seong, who fractured his finger in Seoul just days before the tournament began.
“I’m pleased with the performance of Lee Nam-yong, who has been marshalling the midfield quite well. “I hope the weather will be fine tomorrow as we want to play a fast attacking game,” he said. Agencies