A 2-1 loss to Great Britain in the quarter-final of the Hockey World League Semi-finals on Wednesday saw Shahnaz Sheikh’s men relying on results elsewhere to book a ticket to Rio de Janeiro, where the Games will be held.
Goals in the first quarter by Chris Griffiths and Alastair Brogdon dented Pakistan and although Umar Bhutta pulled one back, the Greenshirts are now staring on the ignominy of missing out on the Olympics a year on from missing the World Cup.
The three-time Olympic champions will now play Ireland in the 5-8 classification positions, with a fifth place finish providing the best possible chance of reaching Rio after the conclusion of the Continental Championships later this year.
Dual qualification by some of the continental champions could allow even teams that fail to make the semi-finals here to qualify for the Olympics.
“I think we put all of our efforts into it but we were unlucky we didn’t score with our chances, but we have other games and it is important that we try to finish fifth,” Pakistan captain Mohammad Imran said.
Great Britain, meanwhile, secured a spot in the World League Finals — to be played in India later this year — and moved closer to achieving qualification for the Olympics.
They have a semi-final clash against Australia, who thrashed Ireland 4-1 earlier on Wednesday, with both teams knowing that a top three finish comes with a guaranteed ticket to Rio.
Great Britain took the lead in explosive fashion, with Griffiths smashing home a thunderous backhand strike in off the crossbar from a seemingly impossible angle in the fourth minute.
Griffiths seized a long ball from Iain Lewers inside the circle on the left and beat goalkeeper Imran Butt with a rising reverse hit that ended in the top-right corner of the goal.
Five minutes later, Great Britain were two goals ahead as Brogdon deflected in Ashley Jackson’s reverse shot from left into the boards, leaving Pakistan stunned.
Pakistan rallied hard and created numerous chances, with Ali Shah firing over the crossbar in the second quarter but had to wait until the fourth period to get themselves back into the game.
Umar was the scorer, flicking in the ball from goalkeeper George Pinner’s pads after he had blocked a cross from the left.
Pakistan’s desperate attacks in looking for another goal saw them break into the circle on a few occasions, but the equaliser eluded them.
Mohammad Waqas came closest but Pinner stood strong to deny the strike from the right and seal a crucial win for his country.
“We made it tough in the end,” said Great Britain captain Barry Middleton. “I think first half we were really good, felt in control and if we had got another goal ahead it would have been hopefully by a few more.
“Obviously when you are only 2-0 up and playing a team like Pakistan, who commit players forward, they are going to make it tough but I thought we defended really well.”
Earlier Australia prevailed in an absorbing quarter-final against Ireland, on the back of goals to Matt Gohdes, Jamie Dwyer, Simon Orchard and and the tournament’s leading goalscorer Blake Govers.
Ireland gave it a real go against Australia in the early stages but they just couldn’t sustain the pace, despite holding the favourites at bay in the first quarter.
The Irish, however, crumbled in the 22nd minute when Ghodes opened the scoring for Australia through a direct penalty corner flick.
The Aussies had to wait till the 45th minute to double the score, this time by veteran Dwyer.
Two quick goals in two minutes by Orchard (55th) and Govers (56th) killed off any hopes Ireland had of a fightback before they got a consolation through Shane O’Donoghue in the 57th.
“It wasn’t a pretty win but sometimes that’s what it is in international hockey,” Kookaburras coach Graham Reid said.
“With Ireland you’re never quite sure with what you’re going to get. We knew that they would frustrate us because they’re a very dogged team.”