Things weren't good for Team Pakistan even before the tournament began. Pakistan had to sack Michel van den Heuvel over the difference with the Hockey Federation just four months prior to the tournament. Most of Pakistani players were playing in the 'unofficial' hockey league. Pakistan performed poorly in the recently concluded Azlan Shah Cup and finished last out of the seven teams.
Pakistan had to appoint new management and call back senior players for the Olympics, so all the strategy and planning was to be reinitiated and the team had to settle down once again. Even thought Pakistan Hockey Officials were adamant that this team could still win a medal but people were giving them no chance at all.
The warm up matches were a disaster as well, Pakistan lost to the low ranked Belgium 2-0 and from Netherlands by a margin of 5-1.
Yet, Pakistan started the tournament in a positive and surprising way, playing brilliantly against Spain to draw the match 1-1. Had it not been the missed chances Pakistan would have easily won. They did win their next match against Argentina 2-0. A match that brought up the hopes that Pakistan may achieve something in these Olympic games.
These hopes were brought down when Pakistan lost convincingly, 4-1 to Britain. But again in the next match from a losing position to win the match 5-4, with two goals in the last five minutes was something special. Pakistan had to win their next match against Australia to qualify for the semi final, yes the top ranked side of the world and world champions.
With all the hopes and prayers Pakistan entered the match to achieve something special. They could not, Australia thrashed Pakistan 7-0 in a one sided contest and Australia were the well deserved winners and finished unbeaten in the tournament.
Pakistan yet were able to defeat Korea in the 7-8th position match 3-2 after being down twice, they sadly missed out on a well deserved 5-6th position match due to the number of goals they conceded against Australia.
Just when the match ended the usual 'lamenting the team' started. Pakistan could have done this, could have done that. Pakistan didn't attack, they didn't defend well. Yes the easiest of things to do.
It was a Pakistan team representing in the tournament. It was the best possible team that we could have selected that composed of the most experienced players available. The only thing we can argue about was the goal keeper selection. Pakistani players were looking as if they want to show they are not gonna go away without showing something.
During the all important match against South Africa when Pakistan scored the fourth goal through Sohail Abbas penalty corner flick, he didn't celebrate.. called the team together as the job was half done. Pakistan scored again, won the match in the end. They played as a team, they tried their best, lets give them the due credit, lets applaud them for what tried to achieve.
Yes we are not good enough and yes we need to sort out things and plan for the future, But look, we were just one game away from the semi final, just one. lets give the players due credit. Sohail Abbas and his men atleast made me proud for the way they played, irrespective of the results.