Putting their disappointing pool campaign behind, an inspired Pakistan notched up their first win over the Netherlands in 16 years, stunning the World Cup and Olympic silver medallist 4-2 to reach the semifinals of Hero Champions Trophy hockey tournament, in Bhubaneswar on Thursday.
The 4-2 win was Pakistan’s first win over the Dutch in the Champions Trophy in 12 attempts, a run dating back to 1998 edition of the tournament in Lahore.
After back-to-back wins in pool stages, the Netherlands slumped to their second straight defeat in the tournament and that too against a lower-ranked side. The Dutch had earlier lost 2-3 against India in their final pool match on Tuesday.
Surprisingly, Pakistan, who returned winless from the pool engagements, looked a completely different side on Thursday as they dominated the mighty Dutch for major part of the match.
The Netherlands, on the other hand, looked a pale shadow of themselves as they failed to take control of the match and lacked in discipline.
Pakistan also had an impressive record in penalty corners on Thursday as they converted three out of the four set pieces that came their way.
However, it was the Dutch who got off to a flying start when Jeroen Hertzberger powered home a field goal in the sixth minute.
Soon after, Pakistan skipper Muhammad Imran brilliantly saved a Mink van der Weerden drag-flick off the line to keep their lead intact.
Pakistan depended on counter-attacks and their plan yielded dividends.
It was Muhammad Waqas who created an opening with his brilliant work in the right wing for Muhammad Umar Bhutta (16th) and the Pakistani forward made no mistake to draw level for his side early in the second quarter.
Muhammad Rizwan Senior then drew a brilliant save from Dutch custodian Jaap Stockman but Pakistan managed to take the lead five minutes from halftime when Imran scored with a low flick from a penalty corner.
The Netherlands leveled the scores four minutes into the second half through Constantijn Jonker (39th) who neatly
finished Rogier Hofman’s driven cross from the right flank.
But Pakistan kept up the pressure on the Dutch goal and Muhammad Irfan pumped in two goals in quick succession in the last 10 minutes of the match to surprise their opponents.
Irfan’s both goals came from penalty corner variations. He first restored Pakistan’s lead in the 51st before applying
the killer touch a minute later.
Pakistan will now face the winners of the match between India and Belgium in the semifinals, while the Netherlands
will play classification matches for fifth to eight positions.
Pakistan coach Shahnaz Sheikh is understandably a happy man and said they played their best hockey on Thursday after experimenting in the pool stages.
“Our tournament started today. We played our real game. What experimentations we had to do we did in the pool matches,” Sheikh told reporters after the win.
“Before departure from Pakistan I said our target is a top four finish.”
Asked who he would like to face as opponent between India and Belgium in the semis, the Pakistan coach said:
“Obviously, we want to play against India because this will help in reviving India-Pakistan hockey.”
The Netherlands coach Max Caldas was critical of his team’s display on Thursday.
“We were disappointing. We lacked discipline. It didn’t look like we are ready to win the game,” he said.
Australia on course for sixth title after beating Argentina
World champions and holders Australia finally got their mojo back and defeated Argentina 4-2 to secure their place in the semifinals of the Hero Champions Trophy hockey tournament at the Kalinga Stadium.
After a not-so-impressive outing where they won one, lost one and drew one game, the Kookaburras got their act together and dished out a much superior performance to down World Cup bronze medallist Argentina.
It took Australia six minutes to surge ahead as Simon Orchard got a stick to Russell Ford’s hard cross from the
Argentina equalised one minute into the second quarter through skipper Matias Paredes (16th), who volleyed home a
great goal following a fine build-up between Lucas Vila and Facundo Callioni.
Five minutes into the second half, Argentina took the lead through Manuel Brunet’s (35th) field goal after a great
But Argentina’s lead lasted just two minutes as Jeremy Hayward scored his third goal of the tournament, with a fierce drag-flick from a penalty corner.
Australia then found the net twice in a span of 12 minutes to take control of the match.
Argentina tried hard to make a comeback thereafter but failed to breach the alert Australian defence.