|Pakistan in its last face-off against Australia today |
NEW DELHI: Four-time champions Pakistan’s World Cup campaign has gone horribly wrong, and call it fate that they have to stand up to the toughest opponents in Pool B — Australia — in their last league encounter on Monday (today).
It appears to be a tough ask for the crestfallen Pakistani team against the title favourites after their shocking loss to South Africa, with the 3-4 scoreline belying the domination of the African side.
In other pool matches, England will take on Olympic silver medallists Spain while India face South Africa. European champions England have already booked a semifinal berth after four victories on the trot.
Out of contention for a top-five finish after three consecutive defeats, India would be desperate to end their losing streak when they take on lowly but spirited South Africa. A win for India will secure their place in the seventh-eighth place play-off match, which would be a considerable improvement from their 11th place finish in the 2006 World Cup in Monchengladbach, Germany.
Collecting nine points from four outings, Australia also look more or less certain to make the semis, with a 21-5 goal difference. Theoretically, however, their nearest rivals Spain — on six points — have an outside chance to make the grade if they can spank England by a huge margin and Pakistan beat the Kookaburras.
But even if the Aussies lose, it could be too much to expect a big Spanish victory over England, by far the most consistent performer in the tournament along with the Netherlands.
The mathematical probabilities notwithstanding, all eyes will be again on Pakistan. Pakistan are aware there will be no freebies on offer against Australia.
The two teams had a similar start but followed different courses as the World Cup reached the weekend.
Pakistan will have to show character and not allow Australia steamroll them.
Australia, on the other hand, stung by England in the opening match, bounced back like a champion side, winning against India, South Africa and Spain.
The runners-up of the last two editions Australia, coached by legendary Ric Charlesworth, have been a treat to watch with a free-flowing forward line and an impregnable defence at their disposal.
Pakistan’s penalty corner expert Sohail Abbas has been a pale shadow of his past, their talismanic striker Rehan Butt has looked unimpressive and the lapses in defence glaring.
A dejected Pakistani coach Shahid Ali Khan was at a loss of words to explain Pakistan’s poor show in the tournament.
“This is the worst I have seen Pakistan play, both as player and as coach. I have never faced such defeat (against South Africa) even during my playing days,” said Shahid Ali Khan.
“We were never the tournament favourites. We came here to improve our rankings, but I never expected such a result,” he said.
Pakistan will do well to stop brooding about the past results and take it as an opportunity to redeem themselves and make sure they do not slide from the sixth position they finished in the previous edition.
Spain vs England at 16:05 (PST)
Australia vs Pakistan at 18:05 (PST)
South Africa vs India at 20:05 (PST)
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