Pakistan announce 16-man Olympic hockey squad

July 21st, 2008 - 11:43 pm ICT by IANS  

Karachi, July 21 (IANS) Pakistan Monday named its 16-man hockey squad for next month’s Olympic Games in Beijing with hopes that it will help the country revive its Olympic glory. Experienced defender Zeeshan Ashraf was retained as the captain for the all-important Olympic squad following a series of trial sessions held at Lahore’s National Hockey Stadium.

Three-time Olympic champions Pakistan have been unimpressive in the lead up to the Beijing Games, however, head coach Khawaja Zakauddin believes his team can go on to become the surprise package of the Olympics Games.

“We have made the sort of team which Pakistan used to field in the ’60s and 70s,” Zaka said. “At that time we normally opted for a combination of experience and youth and this Olympic team has been selected on the same pattern,” added the former Olympian.

Pakistan was a major hockey power in the world from the 60s right up to the early 80s, winning major titles almost at will. But their supremacy that saw them winning the 1982 World Cup and 1984 Olympics has since faded with a brief revival in 1994 when the Greenshirts won the World Cup in Sydney.

Zaka believes that his team’s strong point is its attack with experienced strikers Rehan Butt and Shakeel Abbasi marshalling younger forwards like Zubair Ahmed and Shafqat Rasool, the Pakistan junior team skipper.

Former skipper Mohammad Saqlain will make his Olympic debut after missing out in Sydney and Athens and spearhead the midfield that also includes Olympian Adnan Maqsood.

Zeeshan Ashraf heads the deep defence that includes comeback short corner expert Imran Warsi and vice-captain Mohammad Imran. Warsi missed international action for the best part of the year because of injury problems but is now fully fit.

Olympian Salman Akbar remains Pakistan’s first-choice goalie with the experienced Nasir Ahmed going to Beijing as his substitute.

Pakistan, who last won an Olympic hockey medal - bronze - in 1992 in Barcelona, are placed in pool B of the 12-nation event with Australia, the Netherlands, Canada, Great Britain and South Africa.

Top seeds Germany are bracketed with Spain, South Korea, New Zealand, Belgium and China in pool A.

Pakistan squad: Zeeshan Ashraf (captain), Salman Akbar, Nasir Ahmed, Mohammad Imran, Imran Warsi, Mohammad Javed, Mohammad Saqlain, Adnan Maqsood, Rana Asif, Waqas Ashraf, Waqas Akber, Rehan Butt, Shakil Abbasi, Abbas Haider, Zubair Ahmed, Shafqat Rasool.

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