Shahnaz brimming with confidence ahead of Asian Games

LAHORE: Pakistan hockey team head coach Olympian Shahnaz Sheikh has claimed that his team is fully prepared to defend its title in the 17th Asian Games scheduled to be held in Incheon, South Korea from Sept 19 to Oct 4.

Talking to media on the eve of the national team’s departure to Incheon, the head coach said: “Our team is a blend of experience and young players with ten players inducted into the team being those who were part of the gold-winning squad which participated in the 2010 Asian Games held in China.

“We are going to South Korea after a four-month training,” maintained the former Olympian who will be on his first assignment in South Korea after taking the charge around five months back.

“Our main focus in the training camp was on physical training and how to use the rule of substitution in befitting manners,” he added.

It is important to note that the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) also hosted a dinner in honour of the national team before their departure to Incheon.

Asked former PHF secretary Asif Bajwa had already claimed that the team would not succeed in defending the title, the head coach said every person had his own opinion but he believed his boys had potential to defend the title as they were fully prepared.

Stating that Pakistan had scheduled a practice match against Bangladesh for Sept 18, he said: “I will also try to arrange practice matches against Japan and Korea after reaching South Korea.”

Pakistan have been placed in Pool ‘B’ along with arch-rivals India, Sri Lanka and Oman. “Our first attempt will be to finish top in our pool,” the head coach said.

Goalkeeper Amjad Ali and full-back Aamir Shahzad had been dropped from the 18-member squad to go with the regulation strength of 16 players, the former Olympian further said.

Moreover, PHF secretary Rana Mujahid said free hand was given to the team management in preparing the national team to defend the title, adding that all suggestions given by the management were accepted.

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