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Hockey World League semifinal: Pakistan no match for tactical Argentina

Argentina became the first team to enter the last-four stage of Hockey World League semifinal with an easy 3-1 win against Pakistan.

other sports Updated: Jun 22, 2017 21:05 IST
Soumitra Bose
Maico Casella (L) scored twice as Argentina beat Pakistan 3-1 to become the first team to enter the last-four stage of the Hockey World League semifinal.
Maico Casella (L) scored twice as Argentina beat Pakistan 3-1 to become the first team to enter the last-four stage of the Hockey World League semifinal. (Getty Images)

Unlike their cricket team in the ICC Champions Trophy, Pakistan could not produce any magic against World No 1 Argentina in a quarterfinal match of the Hero Hockey World League semifinal on Thursday. Argentina beat Pakistan 3-1 to become the first team to enter the last-four stage of the tournament and await the winners of the match between India and Malaysia. Maico Casella scored twice for Argentina. (India vs Malaysia Live Updates)

The Hockey World League is also serving as a qualifier for the World Cup and today’s defeat reduces Pakistan’s chances of making it the world championship in India in 2018.

This has been a horror tournament for the Pakistanis. They were lucky to make the knockouts as the fourth team in their group. The former World Cup and Olympic champions looked a pale shadow of their golden past, winning just one group match against lowly Scotland.

On a cool and breezy afternoon at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, Pakistan had their backs to the wall for most of the match. At one stage of the second quarter, Pakistan were defending with all 10 men, a reflection of their inability to stitch together a single noteworthy move.

Argentina had complete control of space and ball possession. The Pakistanis only made it easier for the world No. 1 team by losing the ball easily and frequently.

(Read | Rani Rampal to lead Indian women’s team in Hockey World League Semi-Final)

Maico Casella’s 23rd minute goal from the spot separated the teams at half time. The 1-0 scoreline was not a true reflection of the Argentina’s domination. Pakistan goalkeeper Amjad Ali’s four fabulous saves denied Argentina from walking away with the game. The Argentines could not score a single goal from their first five penalty corners.

Pakistan conceded two goals in the third quarter. In this session, they were down to nine men. Gonzalo Peillat finally converted a penalty corner with a sizzling hit past Amjad Ali’s right in the 32nd minute. An unmarked Casella scored his second in the 44th minute, showing great composure in front of the goal (3-0).

Pakistan won their third penalty corner of the match in 48th minute. It was yet another weak attempt at the goal but Ali Shan capitalised on the rebound, found space on the left, blinded the Argentina keeper with a swift turn and scored with a rasping reverse hit.

Pakistan’s best man on the pitch was undoubtedly goalkeeper Amjad Ali. He saved at least half-a-dozen certain goals. Or else, the green shirts would have ended with their heaviest defeat in this tournament.

India had beaten Pakistan 7-1 in a group match and Canada pumped in six goals against a team that has much work to do to revive their status in world hockey.