Pakistan’s overall display at the 2018 Asian Games in the Indonesian cities of Jakarta and Palembang till now has been pathetic to say the least.
A country with a population of over 200 million has garnered just three bronze medals.
The national game of hockey provides the brightest hope for gold/silver.
Pakistan plays Japan in the semi finals
Japan is one of only four countries (Pakistan, India and Malaysia are the others) who have figured in all the 15 competitions of men’s hockey at the Asian Games.
Japan twice reached the victory stand, bronze in 1966 and 1970. They might be considered unlucky as on no less than seven times, Japan finished fourth. They attained fifth spot twice and ended sixth on four occasions.
Pakistan is of course the most successful nation with eight gold, three silver and three bronze medals.
Pakistan and Japan have played each other 15 times at the Asiad. Thrice, they didn’t come across and thrice they played each other twice at the same Asian Games, in pool as well as the bronze medal play off.
The record is overwhelmingly in favour of Pakistan: 12 wins and three draws. Pakistan’s biggest victory came in the 1982 semifinal in New Delhi. They defeated Japan 12-1 followed by that memorable 7-1 win over India in the final.
Surprisingly, in the recent international events, Japan has a superior record against Pakistan.
At the 2017 Asia Cup, it was a 2-2 draw. They twice met at the International Festival of Hockey in Australia in November 2017. Japan defeated Pakistan in both the league match as well as in the 3rd position play off. This year, at the Tri Nation Tournament in Oman, they again met twice. In the league game Pakistan beat Japan 2-1 but in the final Japan were 3-2 winners.
So in the last five matches against Pakistan, Japan have won three, drew one and lost one.
However, after the Tri Nation in Oman, the famed Dutch coach Roelant Oltmans took over the Pakistan team and it has been a turn around.
At the 2018 Commonwealth Games, Pakistan (world ranked 13) ended seventh but the Green-Shirts remained undefeated throughout, achieving creditable draws against teams rated much higher, India (No 6) and England (No 7). Mostly, they came from behind to draw level. After quite some time, the Pakistan team displayed some real game plan. Notably, it was after six consecutive defeats that Pakistan were able to hold India.
At the Champions Trophy’s final edition this summer,Pakistan were given a wild card entry. The other five sides were all ranked among world’s top six. Though Pakistan ended last but they gave some amazing performances. Pakistan defeated the Olympic Champions Argentina 4-1, went down to the World Champions Australia by a solitary goal and only lost the 5th/6th playoff against World No 3 Belgium in the shootout.
More importantly, here at the Asian Games, Pakistan are exhibiting scintillating form. They won all the pool matches with big margins including a 4-1 win against the higher ranked Malaysia. Pakistan has scored 45 goals and conceded just one Japan though suffered a big 0-8 defeat against India but won all the other four matches. In the last pool game, Japan needed to defeat Korea, who at 14 are ranked two places higher than them. In an exciting encounter Japan managed to win 3-2. Now, they face 13th ranked Pakistan.
Japan might have enjoyed success against Pakistan in recent times but on the current form the Green Shirts are the favorites in the semifinal.
Ijaz Chaudhary – Media Manager