India not playing structural hockey, says Pakistan head coach Saqlain

Chennai, Aug 8 (PTI) Pakistan head coach Muhammad Saqlain on Tuesday said India are not playing ‘structural hockey’ as the two arch rivals prepared for their clash in the ongoing Asian Champions Trophy hockey. India and Pakistan will face-off here on Wednesday at the Mayor Radhakrishnan Hockey Stadium.

While India have qualified for the semifinals, Pakistan are yet to book their berth in the final four.

“India is not playing structural hockey, but Pakistan is. India is simply playing over fitness,” Saqlain said during pre-match media conference.

“Structural hockey is played by Korea and Japan. India has been playing behind the ball mostly and relying mainly on counter-attacking,” he added.

The Pakistan coach admitted it will be a tough ask for his young side to get the better of India.

“It’s been quite some time since Pakistan beat India in a competitive hockey game. This is a young side consisting of 14 players who have never faced India before,” Saqlain said.

Saqlain said that while Pakistan have played an attacking game, finishing is still an area of concern.

“Finishing has been an area of concern for us. We have explained to the boys about their positioning during the missed chances. Our centre forward will have an important role to play tomorrow,” he said.

Saqlain, appointed as the head coach of the Pakistan side for this tournament, admitted they need more time to work on the aspect of physical fitness.

“Our team has been playing in an attacking manner after quite a long time. We have been working with the side for two months now. Physical fitness has been the most important task. While other teams have spent over a month on fitness, we haven’t had the time yet,” he said.

The Pakistan coach observed some patterns and said he would like his team to implement them against India.

“There are still some drawbacks in Indian hockey team as they drew against Japan. Although they played emphatically against Malaysia, South Korea did not allow them to play freely. We will try our best to stop them,” he said.

“I feel India is following Australia’s pattern of hockey in this tournament — begin strongly and finish the game early. The first quarter would be crucial. We will need to be patient,” he remarked.

While conceding that India will enjoy an upper hand, Saqlain said Pakistan can surprise their opponents.

“There is win or loss in every game. While we have a young team, India has a far better squad and have the upper hand. India’s penalty corner is their biggest advantage, which is the best in the world,” he said.

“If we can defend similarly and somehow block India from scoring in the opening quarter, we have a good chance of beating them. We can definitely surprise India,” Saqlain added.

Pakistan skipper Umar Bhutta admitted his side lacked experience.

“India-Pakistan matches are generally aggressive. The team which will control its aggression better, will perform the best. Despite having a young side who lack enough experience, they are excited for this tie and will give their best,” Bhutta said.

“I have been asking them to control their nerves during this match, thanks to my experience of having played India before.” Bhutta said it will be crucial to minimise errors.

“The importance of this match is to minimise the same mistakes as we have done before. It’s the final round-robin contest for us. Either we play the semis or the playoffs from here.

“You cannot underestimate any game as the situation changes drastically in the pool games. Unfortunately, we have to play our most crucial match at this time,” Bhutta said.

Source: PTI News


Share The Article:

Leave A Reply