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Sultan Azlan Shah Cup: Final between Pakistan, Japan begins in Malaysia

Sultan Azlan Shah Cup: Final between Pakistan, Japan begins in Malaysia

Ipoh, MAY 11: After a gap of 13 years, the Pakistan hockey team are facing Japan in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup 2024 final on Saturday.

The finalists had already been decided before the last round of matches was played and Japan’s 3-1 win over Canada saw them finish two points above Paki­stan in the table.

The final of the Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament is being played in Ipoh, Malaysia.

Pakistan continued their unbeaten run at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup with a creditable 1-1 draw against New Zealand in their last round-robin mat­ch yesterday.

Pakistan and Japan had played out a 1-1 draw in their round-robin encounter and Pakistan’s coach Roelant Oltmans expected another tight match in the final.

“Japan have neither scored many goals nor conceded many. They are a good side,” Oltmans told reporters after the ma­tch against New Zealand.

“We need to open them up. We have the players to do it, but it will not be easy. They are compact and organised defensively.

Pakistan fell behind to Paris Olympics-bound New Zealand when Luke Hol­mes scored in the 35th minute but kept their unbeaten run intact thanks to Abu Bakr Mahmood’s penalty corner conversion eight minutes later.

“The first half was New Zealand’s and the second half was ours,” Oltmans told reporters.

“Our start was not good and we conceded two penalty comers in the first minute.

“But this cannot happen in the final against Japan. The players did very well in this tournament but I am not satisfied with our performances in the first half. We were terrible in ball possession. We lost it even before can could even dominate the game. It is not the way we should play. The boys came out really good and we created penalty corner opportunities. We managed to score even with one player less,” he said.

The government and the nation have expressed their best wishes for the team in the final, hoping for a victorious outcome.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif congratulated the side for making it to the Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament final after 13 years.

In a post on X, the premier said he was looking forward to today’s match, adding that the renewed interest in hockey throughout Pakistan signalled a promising trend for the future.

Chief Minister Punjab Maryam Nawaz expressed her best wishes for the Pakistan side.

“Pakistan will emerge victorious in the final against Japan. The team’s performance captured the nation’s attention, and hopes are high for a triumphant outcome.” Maryam Nawaz Sharif said.

“Pakistanis are fervently praying for victory,” she added.

Chief Minister Balochistan Sarfaraz Ahmed Bugti also commended the team for their undefeated record.

“Insha’Allah, Pakistan will win the final match; the Pakistani hockey team deserves recognition for making it to the championship game after 13 years,” he said.

The government has made special arrangements to broadcast the match live for the public.

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