Pakistan coach Mohammad Khawaja Junaid expects his team to put on a good show today when they face defending champions New Zealand in the 25th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ioph, Malaysia.
Junaid says he has identified the weaknesses that the lacklustre New Zealand showed in their two drawn matches — first in a 3-3 draw with hosts Malaysia and then a 1-1 stalemate with Canada — and plans to exploit them, while his charges have been working hard to polish their own finishing.
“The players must not miss any chances and have undergone special drills as well,” Junaid told The Express Tribune, while also admitting that the Greenshirts need to improve despite 3-1 win in their opening clash against Canada. “We have to improve our own scoring ability from open play and also need to focus on our defence.”
The coach is aware that the task at hand is a tough one but believes matches as big as this are pivotal to the team’s development. “It will be a tough match, but it is always exciting to play against a strong team against whom the young players learn the most,” said Junaid. “The players can only assess their game when they play against a top team. Pakistan will get a better idea of their position playing against Kiwis before the all-important showdowns against world champions Australia and arch-rivals India.”
Junaid, who is targeting a top-two finish for Pakistan in their group, further revealed his charges have worked hard on their blocking of straight goals. “From the matches we have watched of New Zealand and Australia, we have seen that they like to score straight frame goals from a distance,” added Junaid.
Captain Mohammad Irfan, meanwhile, is buoyed by the team’s performance against Canada and is confident of a similar result against New Zealand. “The team in the first match played according to plan and if we do the same in the next match, we will get the result,” said Irfan.
Pakistan’s next outing will be tomorrow against Australia. After a day’s rest, the team will then lock horns with India.
Meanwhile, in the remainder of today’s fixtures, Japan will be hoping to get their first win of the tournament when they take on Canada.
In the third match of the day, Australia who won their lone match to secure three points will face Malaysia, who are on top with four points from two matches – a draw and a win.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 9th, 2016.